Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Mar.  9, 2008)

Poster Boy

By Bob Cooper



Defenders of the courts in British Columbia have long dismissed critics of their light sentencing practices saying that you can’t criticize the entire system based upon one particular case.  They say that the criticisms are usually based on 30 second media reports whereas the judge has sat through the whole trial and has all of the facts in front of him.  And that’s fair enough.

But what about 50+ cases?

Tracy Lloyd Caza was arrested this week and has been charged with stealing 3 rings off the fingers of a 91 year old woman recovering from having a leg amputated at Vancouver General Hospital.  At this point he is only charged and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.  And that’s fair enough as well.

What isn’t fair enough, under any circumstances, is the fact that Tracy Caza was still on the street in the first place.  He’s 47 years old and over the last 30 years he’s been convicted of crimes on more than 50 separate occasions.  I’d be willing to bet that his criminal record would also show an equal or greater number of other charges against him during that period that have been stayed, withdrawn, or ended in acquittals.  As broadcaster and former lawyer, Rafe Mair, said years ago, “Being found not guilty in the courts of British Columbia hardly makes you Little Lord Fauntleroy”.

Think about that for a second.  Most people get through their entire lives without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.  Let’s assume that Caza got the same judge more than once and that perhaps 20 or 25 judges have dealt with him over the last 30 years.  Never once has he done more that a few months in jail.  Any reasonable person would accept a lenient sentence for a first or second time offender who shows remorse and some prospect of rehabilitation but at some point the line has to be drawn.  Whether or not that occurs at the fourth, fifth or sixth conviction depends upon the circumstances of the case, I’ll grant the judges that.  Beyond that it’s judicial buck-passing that’s reached the point of negligence.  I would hasten to add that nothing here is personal.  Most of the judges I have met over the years have been perfect ladies and gentlemen and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their company both professionally and at social occasions.  I just happen to believe that too many of them have drunk the Liberal Kool-Aid and need to be sorted out.  Professionals can disagree and still respect each other.

I anticipate that some apologist will point out that his record is mainly for property related crimes, as if that’s alright.  Firstly, I note that he’s been convicted of ‘purse-snatching’.  Many people equate that with Theft.  Those that do have never been a victim of this type of crime.  In fact, ‘purse-snatching’ is Robbery, a crime of violence where Parliament has set the maximum penalty as Life.  When caught stealing in a North Shore rest home, Caza fought the staff when they detained him.  That makes it Robbery.  The fact that it’s sometimes reduced to Theft in plea bargains doesn’t change that.  Secondly, he specializes in preying on the elderly which makes it much more vile.

There was a time that we had the appropriate legal tool to deal with the Tracy Cazas of this city.  It was the Habitual Criminals Section of the Criminal Code and we had a City Prosecutor named Stewart McMorran who wasn’t afraid to use it.  This was the equivalent of the ‘Three Strikes’ Law which many US states have enacted.  It was only used in the more serious cases but it was used and would have taken Caza out of action a long time ago.  This horrified the Left and Trudeau, Goyer, Chretien, et al saw to it that the Section was repealed.  Tracy Caza and others like him are poster boys for its return.

Now, Solicitor-General John Les is announcing that an “a la carte selection of services” will be provided to the most prolific offenders “in exchange for their commitment to use those services and stay out of trouble”.  The involvement of the Provincial government gives me pause.  When the City of Vancouver ran the courts they worked.  Not perfectly but a lot better than they do today.    That said, while I didn’t realize that obeying the law is negotiable,  I do agree with more rehabilitation services for addicts.  To a point.  Beyond that point you lock them up.  The Left may disagree but the safety of law-abiding decent people comes first, or ought to.

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008