The Nails And Hammer Solution

Morley Lymburner
June 09, 2015
By Morley Lymburner
Given its peculiar prosecutorial system, which tells cops they're not qualified to lay charges and Crown Counsels who are too busy to take the situation seriously, it's no surprise that British Columbia is illegally legalizing pot. One of the first lessons I learned in the detective office is that there are three legal realities. Things are legal, illegal or simply "not legal." Legal and illegal are simple enough but "not legal" is a whole new realm where: (A) No one has yet thought up a law; (B) No one can enforce the law; or (C) There is a law but no one wants to enforce it or they are "encouraged" to overlook violations.

Given its peculiar prosecutorial system, which tells cops they're not qualified to lay charges and Crown Counsels who are too busy to take the situation seriously, it's no surprise that British Columbia is illegally legalizing pot.

One of the first lessons I learned in the detective office is that there are three legal realities. Things are legal, illegal or simply "not legal." Legal and illegal are simple enough but "not legal" is a whole new realm where:

(A) No one has yet thought up a law;

(B) No one can enforce the law; or

(C) There is a law but no one wants to enforce it or they are "encouraged" to overlook violations.

The arrival of radar detectors, affordable drones and electric motor scooters are examples of the first scenario. Regulations did not exist and law makers looked the other way.

Scenario B occurs when legislators prohibit something but don't include a consequence. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act once made it illegal to raise a suspension 15 cm above the manufacturers norm. No penalty was prescribed. Officers could tell a driver about the dangers but do nothing if they chose not to listen.

Federal marijuana laws not enforced in BC because of systemic intimidation is a fine example of the third scenario. Some may question why the "left coast" is the hot bed for open use and sale of a substance that is illegal in the rest of the country.

BC's prosecutorial system discourages laying charges and bureaucrats keep an ever watchful eye on those who are charged. The system punishes officers who make arrests with a heavy burden of paper work and red tape to make the case for a charge. Even more troublesome is the media apathy about it all.

Yes, this may free up the judicial system and reduce pressure on prisons but it also masks from the public eye the true nature of crime in a community.

This secret level of rejected prosecutions makes for a very creative system of police crime prevention. Spot an impaired driver? Prepare to spend many, many hours doing paperwork to make your case in the hope Crown Counsel will look favourably upon your request. This results in a diminished police presence in the community and a severe delay in process.

Cops looking the other way is certain to encourage scofflaws. The down-side of non enforcement is that police, not the prosecutorial system, looks bad.

Criminals know there's a good chance second-guessing Crowns will decide not to proceed with charges. This means they will not only not be prosecuted but their name will not be released to the media.

They may continue on in this limbo of semi-illegality for years, often in perpetuity. A law-abiding resident could live next door to a very bad person but unless a bureaucrat in the prosecutor's office wants to lay a charge they will never know about it.

The best part for the BC Crown Counsel is that they never have to go out and deal with the lawbreaker on the street and, unlike the hapless copper, are not answerable for increased crime levels. Cops can only take so many fingers and snide looks from a crook before they alter the way they do their job.

Good crime prevention techniques do not always translate into less crime and many forget that laying a charge is also an effective way to deter a criminal.

The basic problem in BC is that well educated lawyers make a de facto determination of how street cops should do their jobs from the comfort of their offices. A similarly well educated cop finds himself feeding a system with few rewards and little encouragement beyond their ability to type reports and statements. Beyond this the officer faces a frustrating career watching the crime rate increase and walking past mocking offenders.

Here's the grassroots solution. No one should prop up a system by working around it. Follow procedures to the letter and do your job. This might mean actually recommending charges when you feel they're necessary, even if there's little chance they will be laid, and taking the time to fill out all the paper work.

Ensure each Crown Counsel is kept busy preparing a response. They should not be sheltered from what is happening on the streets through officers finding alternative methods of getting the job done. Just like a hammer's only solution is a nail, you must go for it.

When charges are not laid, take every opportunity to point out that you did your part. Suggest victims and other concerned citizens contact the prosecution service with their questions and concerns about community safety and the increasing crime rate.

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