Williams Lake city council has put forth a resolution asking that judges be allowed to consider the prolific nature of offenders during prosecution.
Williams Lake experiences a high number of prolific offenders that are responsible for the majority of crime and for the high rates of crime in our community, the resolution reads. It goes on to say the criminal justice system does not allow judges to consider previous convictions in making judgements for an individual charge which results in multiple incidents of crime perpetuated by the same offender being treated as separate cases.
The resolution has been forwarded for debate at the North Central Government Association being held in Quesnel May 1 – 3.
Mayor Kerry Cook said for years the city has broached the subject with the minister of justice and attorney general in the past.
“This has been a number one topic, reducing our crime and the challenge we have with prolific offenders has been an ongoing discussion for years. In Williams Lake we have a small number of people who commit the majority of the crime.”
Cook suggested change is important to consider during the prosecution stage, not just the sentencing stage.
“In the sentencing stage we recognize that it doesn’t seem to be working,” Cook said.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond told the Tribune it’s important to note that the court can and does take a person’s record and character into account when determining an appropriate sentence, after an accused has been convicted.
“Our criminal justice system is built on a basic principle that the prosecution is not allowed to prove an accused has committed an offence by introducing evidence that they are a person of bad character and someone who is in the habit of committing crimes,” Bond said. “In accordance with this principle, it is appropriate that someone’s previous record be considered at sentencing and generally not before.”
A special response to the problem of chronic or prolific offenders has been the Province’s Prolific Offender Management Pilot Project that showed a 40 per cent reduction in offender recidivism including reductions in property crime, violent offences and drug and alcohol offences.
“In fact, inmates increased their use of physical health services, housing and other social services, while having fewer negative police contacts and spent less time in custody. The co-ordination and collaboration amongst agencies as a result of the POM pilot, is continuing in order to manage these offenders in communities across B.C..
Criminal law reform, including changing the rules of evidence, falls within the authority of the federal government, Bond added.
The resolution is one of three council endorsed for the 2013 NCLGA convention.
A second resolution calls for the restriction of sale and access to bear spray and machetes because they are being used as weapons in Williams Lake.
Speaking from his Kamloops store, Todd Flodstrom, owner and manager of Surplus Herby’s, said bear spray and machete sales are gauged in his stores, including the one in Williams Lake.
“We make sure that they are behind the counter so somebody has to come up and actually talk to somebody about them. It’s not the thing to just sell it to anybody.”
With bear spray, there’s a special form that has to be filled out by the consumer so there’s tracking.
“Like a fishing license, the customer has to put out their name and identification. It’s restricted,” he said.
There’s no paper to fill out for purchasing machetes, but Flodstrom said they aren’t being sold to kids. People have to be 19 and over and sales are kept “tight.”
Under the Pest Controls Products Act the sale of bear spray in Canada is only permitted by authorized vendors who maintain proper sales records.
These vendors must gather certain information including the purchaser’s name and address, the amount purchased and a signed Notice to Purchaser Agreement (NPA). This NPA outlines the legal uses of bear spray and contains a liability warning. It is also important to note that it is illegal to sell bear spray to anyone under the age of 18 or to anyone not willing to sign the Agreement.
The third resolution calls for legislation requiring consumer labelling of genetically modified foods.
Coun. Geoff Bourdon put the GMO resolution forward because mandatory food labelling can “jump start” the public’s awareness of nutrition and health.
“From my own personal studies there seems to be quite a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about food, food and nutrition labelling and this would be a very good start,” Bourdon said.
One of the concerns from people in the food growing industry is that a lot of genetically modified plants are becoming stronger than the natural plants and are starting to take over.
“There are predictions at this point there are no more natural flax seeds in the world,” he said, adding many natural plants are being taken over and destroyed in the face of profit and marketing.