Thursday, August 5, 2010
New rules give police more power to combat gangs
OTTAWA -- Prosecutors and police will have enhanced powers to tackle prostitution, illegal gambling and drug trafficking activities by organized crime under new measures announced Wednesday by the Conservative government.
The new rules expand the list of what constitutes a serious crime in the Criminal Code -- meaning offences punishable by five or more years in prison -- to activities such as keeping a common bawdy house, keeping a gaming or betting house and exporting, importing or producing illegal drugs.
Although the new rules were welcomed by police organizations, defence lawyers described them as overkill, and said the government should carefully monitor their implementation.
They are using a very blunt object, painting with a very broad brush, said David Anber, a criminal lawyer in Ottawa, arguing a lot of nickel-and-dime crooks with no links to organized crime could wind up being branded as serious offenders.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who unveiled the changes at a news conference in Montreal, said the crimes being targeted are often signature activities of organized crime rings.
The new rules, quietly approved by cabinet last month, will allow police and prosecutors to more easily use tools such as wire taps while investigating those crimes, the Justice Department said in a statement.
They also will be able to seek stiffer sentences, block bail and parole eligibility and seize assets that are the proceeds of crime, it said.
The Criminal Code defines a criminal organization as three or more people acting together in criminal ventures, and the federal government estimates 750 organized crime groups are operating across the country.
David Deutscher, a University of Manitoba law professor, said the changes are part of a Conservative effort to appear "tough on crime."
"There's no indication that anybody's been clamouring for these type of amendment(s)," he said.
Deutscher said he believes the changes are a "political move." He noted the offences that will now be treated as serious aren't the "ones that attract the most severe penalties in the Criminal Code."
"I think it's generally part of a political agenda," he said.
We do not need to get tough on crime. It's unnecessary and ineffective at reducing, preventing and deterring crime. Marijuana possession and prostitution should be legal and regulated so safer conditions could be created. These people do not belong in prisons and criminalizing these activities only clogs up courts and jails unnecessarily. Crime has been decreasing and there is no need to get tough. We need to get smart and start addressing the root causes and underlying contributing factors to crime and placing less reliance on imprisonment.