How Fast Should the Wheels of Justice Spin?

In my last post, I briefly touched upon what was unfolding in the U.K. and the rioting that was spreading from London to many more of that country’s major cities. The violence and looting that was broadcast to the world was shocking to many. There were hundreds of reported arsons, thefts, burglaries, assaults, and even murders. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and many other politicians made strong statements to the media on how order will be restored and those found to be responsible for these crimes will feel the full effect of the law. We heard similar cries from British Columbia’s politicians when Vancouver experienced its riot 2-months ago. However, what I found intriguing was the speed at which justice has been delivered in the UK compared to what was have seen in Vancouver.

In London, as the riot raged out in the streets, the courthouses remained open throughout the night to deal with those individuals charged with riot-related offences.There were bail hearings held and guilty pleas entered. And the sentences were heavy. However, In Vancouver, we have yet to have a single person charged with a riot-related criminal offence. This is quite perplexing to many when we have heard of people turning themselves in to the Vancouver Police admitting to their criminal conduct in the riot. Why would it take so long for rioters in Vancouver to be charged, especially when many have admitted their guilt to the police?

There is one significant difference between the manner in which charges are laid in Canada versus the U.K. that may explain the speed of justice delivered in each country. In Canada, police investigate a crime then make their recommendation of charges to Crown counsel, who then have to decide whether to approve the charges based on the evidence the police have gathered. In the U.K., police themselves lay the charges. It appears to be a much quicker, or streamlined process.

However, there is growing debate as to which country’s system is better, or more efficient. The general public in both countries wants to see rioters face swift and significant repercussions. In Vancouver, the passage of time with no charges laid has  left the public wondering if our justice system is broken altogether. The Vancouver Police have said that they are still sifting through mountains of photos and video to ensure they have a careful and complete body of evidence for those whom are eventually charged. Vancouver citizens hear of how rioters have been dealt with in the U.K. and they are wondering why it is so remarkably different. But in the U.K., the Law Society has now warned judges to “not hand down rushed justice“.

Which system do you think is better: one that is swift and immediate or one that is more cautious and takes more time?

I think the swifter U.K. version provides greater immediate deterrence to the public but I also think that B.C.’s slower, more cautious system provides the justice system with a ‘sober second thought’ on how to properly sentence those before the courts. There are pro’s and con’s to each. I hope both countries can learn from one another and make improvements to each of their justice systems.