Saturday, August 8, 2009

Canada's wrongful convictions

Here's something the vote grabbing politicians in Ontario should read instead of advocate groups and prohibitionist's annual reports filled with fluffed up stats!

They languished behind bars for years, wrongfully jailed for crimes they did not commit.

But the high-profile ordeals of Donald Marshall Jr., David Milgaard and others have put a spotlight on what has been called the fallibility of Canadian justice.

These cases are likely not unique and certainly not isolated to Canada, although estimates of the actual number of wrongful convictions vary widely. Each miscarriage of justice, however, deals a blow to a society's confidence in the legal system, experts say.

"Wrongful convictions undermine the two prongs of the criminal justice system’s legitimacy," states a 1992 report prepared by the Library of Parliament. "If someone is wrongfully convicted, that person is punished for an offence he or she did not commit and the actual perpetrator of the crime goes free."

To make it worse, advocates say many who were ultimately exonerated watched their applications stall for years in the federal review board process.

In 2000, federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan announced plans to try to prevent such cases from happening again. The changes, since enacted in the Criminal Code of Canada, enable the justice minister to use his or her discretion to respond to persons who believe they have been wrongfully convicted.

Groups such as the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted have also advocated on behalf of those they say have been jailed unfairly.


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