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Judges Need Room to Work


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Mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers is one of those issues that works better on paper than on the street or in the courts. The United States tried this approach and failed. People are still inhaling, injecting and selling drugs.

The proposed Canadian law is different from American attempts at mandatory minimums, but it leaves no room for judges to consider the circumstances.

Trafficking conjures up images of large-scale drug operations and seedy characters standing on street corners, peddling their wares to wide-eyed youths. But the definition also includes the passing of a marijuana joint to a friend.

Yes, it's illegal, damaging to one's health and could create problems down the road, but let's face it, a six-month jail term is probably excessive ( the passer would also need to be found growing one marijuana plant ).

That's where judges are supposed to come in.

The Conservatives obviously think they can make political gains on the issue but surveys show they could be off the mark with ordinary Canadians. Experts, meanwhile, have argued they could be doing more harm than good.

Politicians should be following the lead of the police, who have cracked down on factory grow-ops and organized crime. Judges need to be able to use their discretion, weigh the evidence and dole out fair punishments to individuals based on the details of their crime.

For some, jail may be the answer. But to take away every tool in a judge's arsenal except for one will solve nothing.

A handyman doesn't go to a job with just a sledgehammer and neither should a judge.

Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 BC Newspaper Group
Contact: editor@nanaimobulletin.com
Website: Nanaimo News Bulletin - Your Best source for Local Community News delivered in print or online
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