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Harsh Punishment is Not the Answer

Today’s Star contained a heartwarming story about a gentleman who was facing serious criminal charges but was given a break when he appeared, seven years ago, before Justice Hugh Atwood for sentencing in Brampton.  Seeing that the man had turned his life around, Atwood sentenced him to a 90-day weekend sentence (he could have given him four years) effectively giving him a chance to continue to turn his life around and to be there for his young son.

Seven years later, in what was clearly a very emotional moment back in a Brampton courtroom, Maxwell Beech appeared again in front of Atwood, however this time he was not facing any criminal charges but instead thanking His Honour for giving him this second chance.

For reasons that defy logic, the Conservative government is ignoring clear warning signs and moving ahead with their crime policy.  This policy will impose mandatory minimum sentences on numerous offences which would effectively take sentencing discretion away from Judges in many cases.  Had their been a mandatory minimum sentence for the charges Beech faced then Atwood’s sentencing hands would have been tied, and perhaps Beech’s story would have turned out vastly different than the one that was told in court yesterday.

I am of course aware that not every person found guilty of a criminal offence turns their life around like Beech has.  Many do end up becoming recidivists.  That said, there is still no evidence to even suggest that harsher punishment actually succeeds in reducing crime.

If anything, the billions of dollars that the crime bill will likely cost the taxpayers would be much better served being put into social and counseling programs that will actually help in reducing the crime rate.

This blog post was written by lawyer Adam Goodman.  Adam is a criminal lawyer in Toronto who blogs regularly about legal subjects.  Adam can be reached at 416-477-6793 or by email at adam@aglaw.ca.