The comments of Calgary Police Constable Shaun Horne have stimulated a lively debate over the problems with the justice system in this country. Horne said the system is a "mockery" and a "joke" and got slapped by the weak-kneed management of his department for his trouble when he was suspended a week without pay.
Lost in the discussion this week were the comments by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Pat Sullivan when sentencing Barrett Darr, 22, for cold-bloodedly leaving his 17 year-old girlfriend to die in a ditch after he rolled a stolen SUV.
When sentencing him to 33 months in prison, Mr. Justice Sullivan said something that speaks to exactly what it was that caused the frustration in Cst. Horne to boil over. In referring to the easy ride Darr had been given in his many previous trips through the revolving door of justice, Sullivan said, "Maybe if we hadn’t been so soft in the beginning, maybe if the judiciary had tightened the harness earlier on, perhaps we wouldn’t be here today."
Almost a throw-away line really in the sentencing hearing, but oh, so terribly telling.
The justice system has been getting softer and softer to the point where it is very hard to do something egregious enough to actually go to jail. Conditional sentences have become all too common in our criminal courts with the advocation of house arrest seen by the chattering classes as a suitable replacement for jail.
Mr. Justice Sullivan got it exactly right in his musings if not in the actual term he gave Darr for his crimes. Cst. Horne's frustration with the system caused his outburst, but it is not without merit and Mr. Justice Sullivan underlined the point.