This via Steve Sullivan
Ouch! The attorney general doesn’t know the rights of victims? B.C.’s in trouble; this would never happen in Manitoba. Then Steve rips into B.C. for falling behind on victims issues (ya, the timing is great with the Pickton trial coming up next millennia)
Yes, the ability to read VIS in court is about the only recourse victims have in the legal process
Plant should do homework on victim’s rights: B.C. attorney – general off target on Regina vs. Bertuzzi
The Vancouver Province
Fri 14 Jan 2005
Column: Joey Thompson
Geoff Plant ought to get himself a front-row seat in a refresher course on crime victims’ rights — or take a few minutes to thumb through Canada’s Criminal Code.
B.C.’s attorney-general would soon realize he was off target with his claim that victims of crime — among them hockey player Steve Moore — don’t have a legal right to deliver their impact statements in person.
Plant’s position — that the law permits oral testimony but a victim has no right to insist on it — is misinformed. Granted, our top courts have yet to weigh in with an official interpretation of Section 722, but the aim is clear thanks to 1999 CC revisions by then-federal justice minister Anne McLellan: Victims who want to describe their injuries in person “shall” be allowed to.
Don’t take that as meaning they have been, though. Crown handling of victim impact statements –which judges are required to consider in determining a fit sentence — varies from province to province, court to court.
In B.C., personal testimonials by victims of crime are almost non-existent. Crown — keen for a speedy hearing on sentencing, especially when a plea bargain with the accused already exists — routinely assumes the task of describing the harm suffered by the victim. From this vantage point, more often than not they do a lacklustre job.
Which brings us to Regina vs. Todd Bertuzzi, who cut a deal with Crown to cop a guilty plea to assault in order to avoid a stint in jail. Once the brute admitted his guilt, did the prosecutor stand up for Moore as he should?
Quite the contrary. As law-abiding citizens we have reason to worry if the reaction from our A-G’s office to Bertuzzi’s injured victim is standard.
Instead of trying to facilitate the injured Colorado player’s wish to be present in court, Plant and prosecutor Garth Loeppky took it upon themselves to challenge Moore’s request for a sentencing adjournment to give him time to think about what to say. They also flatly denied his right to say it in person, which the law permits.
Which is why the national Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime fired off a complaint letter to Gordon Campbell a few weeks ago.
“B.C. was once a leader in the victims’-rights movement, but your government has completely reversed that trend,” director Steve Sullivan admonished the premier.
“The Crown could have argued that in B.C. crime victims matter. [But] it appeared your government was more concerned with Mr. Bertuzzi than for Mr. Moore, who was the victim in this brutal attack. I believe both Mr. Plant and the Crown are incorrectly interpreting the [law] to suit their own interests.”
Sullivan has taken this miscarriage of justice a step farther — he’s also asked federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler for his take on the law regarding victim impact statements.
Sullivan tells me if Cotler says he’s in Plant’s camp, he’ll have to pressure Ottawa to further revise the Criminal Code for the sake of the country’s thousands of victims of crime.
But it’s our law officials’ attitude, not the law, that requires changing. Staring at me is a release from McLellan, dated Nov. 25, 1999, in which she spells out the revisions in Bill C-79, legislation to enhance the safety, security and privacy of victims of crime.
Top of the list: “Victims [will be] informed about opportunities to prepare a victim impact statement and will [be] permitted to read the statement out loud if they choose.”