Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of Mar.  7, 2005)

Grieving Is Not Enough

  By John Martin

The tragic death of four young RCMP members in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, like all tragedies, is already inspiring knee jerk reactions.  What should be a time for grief and mourning is being exploited by shameless opportunists eager to see marijuana legalized.

Others are citing this terrible loss as evidence that grow-op penalties need to be tougher.

Both miss the point.

This terrible loss is not a consequence of drug laws or slap-on-the-wrist sentences for marijuana growers.  The issue is a Parliament and criminal justice system that is so oblivious to public safety that dangerous psychopaths are continually returned to our communities.

Ticking time bombs, chronic violent offenders and viscous animals are routinely given early release to offend time and time again.

Consider what we know so far about James Roszko.

He had a long and violent history of run-ins with the police.  He hated cops and loved guns.

In 1999 he shot at two people who trespassed on his property but was not prosecuted.

On at least two other occasions he pointed guns at people’s heads.

Despite having been convicted of numerous offences dating back to 1976, including assault with a weapon and unlawful confinement, he had never been sent to prison. 

That changed in 2000 when he was incarcerated for molesting a child over a six year period.  The abuse started when the victim was ten years old.

Even though Roszko never owned up to the sexual abuse, he was given statutory release in 2001.

The criminal justice system is consumed with criminals’ rights, their comfort and dignity, and an almost psychotic urge to keep offenders, even violent ones, in the community.

Crazed and dangerous nutcases like Rozsko will continue to avoid incarceration.  Law abiding citizens and more law enforcement officers will continue to pay the price for liberal theology.

Legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana wouldn’t have prevented anything.  Pot will continue to be prohibited in the U.S. and organized crime would still be involved.  The violence and killing would not subside.

Increasing the penalties for grow-ops wouldn’t have prevented anything.  Judges automatically give growers conditional sentences and probation even though the law allows for a maximum of seven years in prison.  The penalty could be doubled or tripled and judges would still treat even multi-million dollar producing grow-ops no different than they would a parking ticket.

What happened in Mayerthorpe was not about marijuana.

It was about a ticking time bomb with a long history of violence that the system was fully aware of and opted to ignore.

It was about an approach to criminal justice that has little time for public safety.

The most poignant and telling comment on this tragedy comes from the mother of slain Constable Brock Myrol.  She states, “It is time our government take a stand on evil.”

She adds, “It is time to take our liberal-minded attitude to task.  Prime Minister Paul Martin, we depend on you and expect you to change the laws and give the courts real power.  Give the police real power.”

Instead, Paul Martin and the rest of the Liberal Party are having a blast at their convention.  They’re talking about same sex marriage and how to buy more votes in Quebec.

Taking a stand on evil is just not on the agenda this week.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

BC Chief Justice Carol Baird Ellan on sentencing

“In deciding the appropriate sentence, a Court is governed by the sentencing principles set out in Part XXIII of the Criminal Code, and by applicable case law. Those principles require the judge to consider the circumstances of the offence and the offender, any aggravating or mitigating circumstances, other similar previous cases, and to decide what sentence best achieves the objectives of denunciation, deterrence, protection of the public, rehabilitation, reparation, responsibility, and respect for the law. There is also a provision that jail is a last resort.”   (BC Chief Justice Web site)

PART XXIII Sentencing

(e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.  (Canadian Criminal Code)

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