Monday 13 August 2012

Should  some  criminals  be  banned  from  their  communities?

After a horrendous shooting which took place in Toronto in which two shooters firing guns at each other killed two innocent bystanders and injured 12 of them, the mayor of Toronto suggested that gunmen should be banned from living in the City of Greater Toronto. He later backpedaled from that statement. Perhaps he later learned that such a ban would be unenforceable because it would be in contravention of section 7 of Canada`s Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states the following;

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” 

 Whoever told the mayor that he would be justified in having a municipal law enacted that would banish certain citizens their right to remain in the City of Greater Toronto, was wrong.

The principles of natural justice has always had as their central objective, the protection of the individual against public authorities exercising their authority to pass laws that are against the interests of its citizens when in fact, some of their laws are not theirs to pass in the first place. Such domestic tribunals banning any of its city’s citizens from living in Greater Toronto or even working in Greater Toronto would be unconstitutional. And giving the police that same authority would also be unconstitutional.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper held said that he will not endorse the mayor’s idea to outright ban gun criminals from Canada’s largest city. Obviously such a law barring gun criminals from Toronto isn't something the federal government has proposed or would endorse in any case. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has also publicly pooh-poohed the plan, , noting the government can't tell people where they can and can't live. That is true however, a court judge can.

In the town of Mission, British Columbia, the district council reported a crime rate as being in free fall. In the last quarter, sexual assaults were down 40%, business break-ins were down 60% and major thefts had plummeted by an astonishing 72% over the previous year. Best of all, only three years after it had topped Canadian homicide statistics, Mission was six months into 2012 without a single murder.

Of course, overhanging the entire presentation was a single meth addict, Dylan Chysyk, 23 who liked to break into cars. Regularly swiping radios, GPS units and spare change to feed his habit, the 23-year-old was single-handedly responsible for a 75% rise in car break-ins. Police and local media alike would soon dub him the “one-man crime wave.”

But even during Inspector Konarski’s presentation, Dylan Chysyk, 23, was up to his old habits. At 2 a.m. the next day, officers arrested Chysyk after spotting his gaunt, familiar form “lurking around” a residential neighbourhood.

First nabbed the month before, Chysyk had confessed to breaking into 90 vehicles in six weeks. Nevertheless, a provincial court judge only handed him three weeks in jail, and he got out in two. Obviously the judge has no concept about how criminals should be dealt with. The “revolving door” of the B.C. court system is a frequent sticking point for police, who often complain of seeing petty thieves and drug dealers cycled back onto the street within days, often paying little heed to bail conditions. One of the most notorious, Vancouver’s Tracy Lloyd Caza, has racked up more than 100 convictions since 1977. “He’s like herpes — he just doesn’t go away,” said the granddaughter of one of Caza’s victims in April.
With respect to Chysyk, the judge once again let him off in a few days in jail but this time, the judge got his brain cells in order. Under the judge`s judicial order, Chysyk was told  that he would no longer be allowed to set foot within Mission city limits. “If he’s caught in Mission, it’s an immediate arrest, and he goes before the courts again,” said Mission RCMP spokeswoman Corporal Sharon Siluch.

While it may just push Chysyk’s crimes into Mission’s neighbouring Greater Vancouver community, police hope it will do him some good to get away. “If you take him away from the element that he’s used to, that is hopefully going to be a deterrent,” said Corporal Siluch of the RCMP detachment in Mission. That is a fore lone hope because addicts don`t change their ways that quickly.

Orders, such as that placed on Chysyk, are actually a common judicial tool, although they are typically applied on a much smaller scale such as being forbidden to attend a particular bar, a certain street, neighbourhood or crime-ridden downtown area. Still, Canadian law abounds with numerous examples of community “banishments.”
Last year, after a schizophrenic man shoplifted, skipped a restaurant bill and assaulted a police officer on B.C.’s Saltspring Island, a judge released him from jail on the condition that he never, ever return to the island.

And while Chysyk will easily be able to slip past Mission’s loose, wooded boundaries, such banning orders are extremely effective in the fly-in communities of the High Arctic. For example, in 2004, a judge forbade convicted Nunavut child molester Mikidjuk Utye from returning to his home in Kimmirut, Nunavut. Within weeks, officials in the Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay were seeking similar sanctions against their own unrepentant sex offender.
In a release announcing Chysyk’s banning order, the Mission Police pledged to “properly communicate” the damage Chysyk had done to Mission, so that if he is arrested again, judges could make “a more informed choice on punishment.”

However, I am forced to ask the following rhetorical questions;

 First. Can a judge ban a criminal from living and working in a community for life?

 I don’t think so. However, a judge can make such an order for three years because if he places the person on probation, the law permits a judge to place him on probation for no longer than three years. A probation officer also has that same authority.

 However, the National Parole Board can make such an order for banishment from a community for life if a person who has been convicted of first degree murder is on parole for the rest of his life.

 Second. Is it fair and just to a man’s family if the man is banned from living in and working in a community and he and his wife own their own house? 

 It would not be fair or just to force the man out of his job that he may have worked at for years and then lose his house because he can no longer pay the mortgage since he has become unemployed because of his banishment.

 Further, if he is banned, he would not be able to visit his family and his family may not be able to visit him if he lives too far away because of their own financial restraints. This could result in a final breakup of the family. 

Admittedly, there could be instances when keeping the man away from his family is beneficial to his family, especially if he wasn’t supporting them or was cruel and mean to them.

 Going too far in banning sex offenders from communities

A growing number of municipalities in the United States are taking the additional step of placing restrictions on where sex offenders can live, travel, or both.

In Florida, the San Antonio City Commission made it official on January 11, 2011 when it adopted an ordinance that bans sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of any school, day care, public or private park and bus stop. That means the ban, which applies to offenders who have been convicted of certain sexual crimes against children, covers essentially the entire city. In other words, they are banned from living or working in that city.

Monrovia, a small community close to Los Angeles joined the ranks of several other cities in the area that placed significant restrictions on where a registered sex offender, on parole or not, can reside or even congregate within the city limits.

In the past, the State of Florida provided sex offenders a list of locations where they could live that did not violate the parameters set by the City of Miami, but the closest was in Brward County. Although the Florida Department of Corrections initially denied that they were forcing the offenders to live under the bridge, a local alternative newsweekly named theMiami New Times reported that internal communication in the Department of Corrections proved this to be false and that released offenders were told to live in the colony for sex offenders under the bridge or face more jail time.

 As many as 140 people lived in the colony in July 2009. They were required to be in the camp from 6 at night to 7 in the morning, when a representative from the Department of Corrections arrived to check that they were there. Most of the structures in the encampment, described by The Miami Herald as a "shantytown", were tents, improvised wood, or cardboard structures. Some had plumbing and cooking capacities, and residents of the colony shared generators for electricity to recharge cell phones and their tracking devices.

 Prisoners who were sex offenders who were released from correctional facilities were issued driver's licence by the State of Florida listing their addresses as the Julia Tuttle Causeway. This would mean that if they showed their driver’s licences to anyone who is familiar with why that particular licence was issued, the former sex offender could suffer from prejudicial harm that follows them wherever they go.   

 These are other examples in which banning laws are inappropriate. Barring sex offenders from living in a town does not stop them from traveling through it therefore since it is possible that a sex offender on the Registered Sex Offenders List could conceivably molest a child or a woman in those communities while traipsing through them—the ordinances seem to be ludicrous.

 Are these ordinances a step toward keeping children and woman safe, or are they simply a ‘false safety net’ that wouldn't actually prevent sex offenders from molesting children or woman again in their communities?  Will such ordinances act as a deterrent?

 Communities considering sex offender residency restrictions must ask themselves the following rhetorical questions—

 Do such laws truly make their communities safer?  Should such ordinances apply to a young man at a party who misreads a girl’s intentions and plants a kiss on her only to get slapped, then the police charge him with sexual battery and he is convicted of that offence and it lands him on the Registered Sex Offender’s List?  Or what about the couple that had consensual sex only to find out that one of the partners lied about her age and her sexual partner is convicted of having sex with a minor and his name is then placed on the list for sex offenders?

 I can understand banning registered sex offenders from entering public libraries, public beaches, public parks and areas close to schools but some communities in the US bar them from entering any public building which in my opinion is ludicrous. That would mean that they couldn’t apply for welfare assistance or employment insurance as those departments are in public buildings.  

 There are more effective ways to stop sex offenders from molesting children and women in communities by using electronic monitoring systems that will inform the police if a ‘registered sex offender’ enters a park, swimming pool, beach, or is within 200 yards of a school.  

 This technique could also apply when a person is ordered to remain from a former victim. The victim could wear a sensor that is concealed on her person, such as her ankle and if the offender is within two hundred feet of the potential victim, she is warned and so are the police. 

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