"THE CASE OF THE TEENAGER WHO BRUTALLY BEAT 21-MONTH-OLD (BABY JENNA) TO DEATH AND EVENTUALLY PLED GUILTY TO MANSLAUGHTER IS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE ACT CAN BE TOO LENIENT. HIS 33-MONTH-SENTENCE WAS THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE. THAT IS TOO LITTLE TIME FOR THE SEVERITY OF THE CRIME. IT ALSO FUELS CONCERNS THAT THE ACT IS INEFFECTIVE IN DEFENDING PUBLIC SAFETY AND ESTABLISHING SENTENCING AS A DETERRENT TO VIOLENT CRIME."
EDITORIAL: PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER;
Earlier this year, the Peterborough Examiner began an editorial; headed "A little tougher" by saying, "Canada's laws that determine how youths charged with serious crimes are dealt with by the courts need to be updated -and in some cases made tougher."
"Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is touring the country looking for input on amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act," the editorial continued;'
"He is pushing the "tough on crime" angle, but also talking about the importance of early intervention programs to keep teenagers from becoming criminals and counselling and rehabilitation programs in youth detention centres.
When he makes those kinds of statements, Nicholson represents the reasonable face of the Tory push to deal with youth crime.
The strident version is presented in a flyer Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro sent to local homes recently. It refers to "young thugs committing crimes without fear of consequence," "lawless punks and thugs," and the "youth-crime mess."
The flyer, which is no doubt being used by Conservative MPs across the country, qualifies as political propaganda. It refers to the Youth Criminal Justice Act as a "toothless" law adopted by "soft on crime" Liberals.
Critics who call the flyer inflammatory and an example of fear mongering have a point. Youth crime isn't rampant in Canada. The number of crimes committed by those under age 18 has been falling since the early 1990s, along with the general crime rate.
However, violent youth crime has increased. Since crime rates peaked in 1991, the overall youth crime rate has fallen by 25 per cent. During the same period, violent youth crime has increased by 30 per cent.
Sticking more young people in jail for longer periods of time isn't the final answer to that problem. But in some instances, it is a reasonable answer.
A couple of local cases illustrate what is wrong with the act, but also that it is not "toothless" or in need of a complete overhaul.
Last month, a 15-year-old from Oshawa was charged with attempted murder after a Peterborough man who asked a group of youths to move away from his property was stabbed several times in the back.
The 15-year-old was denied bail and has been in custody since the incident. His friends were in court for his bail hearing. They were rowdy and disruptive, and told an Examiner reporter they were a street family: "You mess with one us, you mess with us all."
They fit the definition of "punks." But if found guilty, the 15-year-old should get the chance to turn his life around. A sentence in a youth facility with counselling would provide that opportunity. If that is the outcome, the act will have worked.
Denial of bail as protection for the public was necessary, and was possible under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. However, the act is flawed in that it is very difficult to keep youths in custody while they await trial unless they can be shown to present a physical danger. Chronic offenders who steal cars or break into houses also need to be kept off the streets if they are likely to keep breaking the law.
The case of the teenager who brutally beat 21-month-old (Baby Jenna) to death and eventually pled guilty to manslaughter is an example of how the act can be too lenient. His 33-month-sentence was the maximum possible. That is too little time for the severity of the crime. It also fuels concerns that the act is ineffective in defending public safety and establishing sentencing as a deterrent to violent crime.
We look forward to seeing the Conservatives' proposal for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and better prevention and rehabilitation programs."
Thirty-three months for killing Baby Jenna - and no apparent consequences for Dr. Charles Smith whose erroneous judgment and mishandling of evidence allowed the killer to remain free for several years - while Brenda Waudby, a grieving mother, was charged with the crime.
Something is very wrong with this picture;
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