Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Feb. 11, 2012)

Stop the Presses

By Bob Cooper


On Wednesday the Premier announced that, wait for it, there are problems in BC’s justice system.  Boy, nothing gets past her.  Editors in newsrooms all over the city were shouting “Hold the Evening Edition!  Clear the Front Page! Get me Re-Write!!!!”.  Then she remarked that although the crime rate is dropping, and fewer cases are coming to court, the trial backlogs keep increasing.  Her take?  “It just doesn’t add up”.

Actually it does.  You see, when you shut half the courthouses in the province, reduce the number of judges, prosecutors, court staff, deputy sheriffs, and slash legal aid funding, you’re probably going to have some delays.  Since the Premier was sitting at the Cabinet table when much of this occurred under her predecessor and never raised an objection, her usual excuse of inheriting a mess is somewhat unconvincing.

As far as the dropping crime rate goes, in most cases it’s because people have lost faith and just don’t bother reporting it.  Fewer cases coming to court?  Thank the Charge Approval System which I’ve written about before in this space.

The other major factor is the Charter of Rights which provides fertile ground for endless irrelevant argument and challenges by lawyers, increasing the administrative burden in every criminal case by ten-fold.  Trials that used to take hours now take weeks and those that took days now take months.  Given the Premier’s interest in Jobs she should take a look at the industry that this puppy has spawned.   A provision in the Charter guarantees the right to a speedy trial and the legal authority is the Supreme Court case of R. vs Askov which entitles criminals to get away with their crimes if they are not tried in a reasonable length of time.  Like it or not, the Charter has been around since 1982 and its effects on the justice system, which show no sign of abating, were as predictable as the sun rising and they should have been increasing resources to deal with them a long time ago.

To solve this conundrum she’s engaged veteran lawyer Geoffrey Cowper to conduct a Review.  Not only that, but this will be a New, Improved Review.  Like way better than the one we just paid for in 2002.  She’d initially said that this would be the first Review of the justice system in 20 years until someone checked and found the previous one which is understandable given the way these things get buried as soon as the press conference is over.  To give her some credit, this time she selected someone who was actually qualified to conduct the Review as opposed to the Liberal party friend she paid $70,000.00 to toss a coat of whitewash on the Stanley Cup Riot last summer.

It could also be seen as a modest improvement as her only other suggestion to improve the justice system thus far was to televise the Riot trials.

This is not to be in any way critical of Mr. Cowper.  He is highly regarded in his profession and I’m certain that he will apply himself diligently to the task at hand and come up with some very good recommendations most of which will come to naught because the only real fix involves money to hire more judges, prosecutors, deputy sheriffs, and cops just to keep up with the workload.  The most junior clerk in any court registry in the province could have given the Premier the same information for free but that wouldn’t make for much of a photo-op.

This is just more deflection and political sleight of hand.   She has absolutely no intention of reforming BC’s justice system for a couple of reasons.  First, they’d have to fund it properly which means shifting money from other areas of government like creating lucrative bogus jobs for all the Premier’s friends or paying millions in hush money to keep a certain scandal quiet.  Second, when that scandal (cue sound of Train Whistle) finally breaks, which it definitely will, those who were up to their ears in it may well hope to benefit from the Askov decision.

If I were Mr. Cowper, I’d get the money up front.  After the Premier’s incredible gaffe about tossing 1,000 Hydro employees out of work to create Jobs she may not be there to hand him his cheque when he turns his report in.


While commenting on the Premier appointing someone qualified my instincts should have caused me to wonder ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’  Sure enough, she was just returning a couple of favors:

On Thursday morning Bill Good on CKNW did a segment on the Premier’s announcement and who did he bring on as legal expert & cheerleader to praise her stroke of brilliance in choosing  Mr. Cowper?  Why Mr. Cowper’s pal Geoff Plant who Good introduced as a ‘former Attorney-General’ and nothing else.   Good failed to mention, among other things, that as A-G from 2001 – 2005 Plant presided over most of the budget slashing that put BC’s justice system in the sorry state it’s in today.  Looks like Mr. Cowper’s fee is pretty safe after all.  Nice to see his firm get a good return on their investment.



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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