Let us take a moment to send a hearty ‘Thank you’ to a gutsy Ontario Superior Court judge, who has told Stephen Harper to stuff his mandatory sentencing where the sun don’t shine.
OK, she didn’t exactly put it that way. Judges are generally a little more sophisticated than that. But Madam Justice Amy Molloy, in refusing to imposed a mandatory minimum sentence as ordered by Harper’s crime fixated government, did call a mandatory sentence she was supposed to impose “fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent, and intolerable”.
Hey, that’s way better than ‘shove it up your ass’.
So, exactly why did Justice ‘Let ‘Em Go’ Molloy defy the Harper government? Is she one of those soft on crime judges who set killers and rapists and parking ticket scofflaws free to terrorize the innocent citizens of Harperland?
Here’s the story.
Molloy was presiding over the trial of a chump named Leroy Smickle, who was charged with being in possession of a loaded handgun. What was the Smickle (isn’t being named Leroy Smickle punishment enough?) doing with a loaded handgun? Was he holding up a liquor store, brandishing it in a bar, walking down the street waving it at passers by? Nope. Poor ol’ Leroy was in his apartment at 2 a.m., in his undies, striking what he thought was a cool pose for his friends on Facebook. This is itself not a crime, but it should ben. When police broke into his apartment, ol’ Smicky was reclining on his couch, operating a webcam.
Here’s the funny part. The cops weren’t looking for Smickle. They were looking for his cousin, who they suspected had illegal firearms. They just happened to find Smickle posing with his piece (and by that, I mean his gun). He was so startled when the cops came in that he dropped his computer and his gun, which must has made for much hilarity amongst his friends on Facebook.
Now, what would you think is a reasonable punishment for a guy sitting in his apartment with a loaded gun? According to tough-on-crime Tories, this was a gun crime, and this kind of assault on law abiding Canadians requires a mandatory THREE YEARS IN PRISON. Yep, three years for being a doofus posing with a gun in your own apartment.
Smickle, by the way, has no criminal record, and good career prospects. In Harperland, where the government knows best, there is no room for debate when such a heinous crime is committed. Three years in jail, no debate.
Except, Justice Molloy thought otherwise. She sentenced him to a year of house arrest.
“In my opinion,” the wise judge said, “a reasonable person knowing the circumstances of this case and the principles underlying both the Charter and the general sentencing provision of the Criminal Code, would consider a three-year sentence to be fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent and intolerable.”
Right on, sister.
In Harper’s world, there is only black and white, no shades of grey. This is an example of the inherent danger, even stupidity, of mandatory minimum sentences. Smickle’s only real crime was in being a doofus. If Justice Molloy had imposed the mandatory, Smickle’s life would have been ruined. A guy with no criminal record and no criminal intent would have been sent to jail, his whole life derailed over one moment of harmless stupidity. And of course, there is not just the human cost, but the cost to the government of Canada to lock up a guy for three years.
Americans have had plenty of experience with mandatory sentencing. It has been a colossal failure, filling prisons to capacity, ruining countless lives and costing the government billions. When the Harper government was considering mandatory sentencing, some American lawmakers — from TEXAS, of all places — came to Canada and told the government is was a bad idea. Hey, if Americans are going to tell you something is a bad idea, you should listen.
But Harper didn’t, of course. It’s good politics to get tough on crime. It sells well with the base. It doesn’t matter that lives will be ruined, that prisons will be filled with people who made stupid mistakes, that billions will be spent. In the past, judges may or may not have been guilty of being too lenient with house arrest. But if I had to choose between the occasional criminal getting a slap on the wrist when he should have gotten jail, or guys like Leroy Smickle going to jail for three years for basically nothing, I’ll take the soft-on-crime option anytime.
Hey, if I’m ever in front of a judge (God forbid), I hope I have a judge with the intelligence and intestinal fortitude of Justice Molloy. Give me the common sense of a judge over the Stephen Harper’s mandatory minimum stupidity any day.