Globe and Mail

Tory MPP wants judges to be more accountable

RICHARD MACKIE
Queen's Park Bureau, The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Toronto -- Judges in Ontario would face performance reviews and lenient judges would be pressed to hand out stiffer sentences to serious criminals under legislation introduced by a Progressive Conservative MPP yesterday.

Marilyn Mushinski, the Scarborough Tory who introduced the legislation, said it "will require the Attorney-General to table an annual report of the sentences that are handed out by judges in serious, non-plea-bargained criminal cses, compared to the maximum sentence under the law."

It would provide a means of judging judges, she said. "This will let the government, law-enforcement agencies, and the public at large know which judges believe that stiff sentencing is an important way to protect law-abiding citizens and motivate lenient judges to give out tougher sentences."

Ms. Mushinski argued that the legislation would be important in fighting crime.

Reports produced under the legislation could be examined by a legislature committee that would review the performance of judges.

"Politicians can increase maximum penalties and police officers can catch suspects. But all of that is useless if our courts don't hand down meaningful sentences."

The bill also would allow the legislature to recommend appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ms. Mushinski said she wants to press the federal government into accepting provincially recommended justices.

Legislation such as this, which is introduced by private members, seldom gets passed into law. But this bill reflects a strong belief in the Tory caucus and among some cabinet ministers that judges should be held accountable to the legislature.

Three years ago another Tory backbencher, Jerry Ouellette, introduced legislation that would have established performance reviews for judges and have them reviewed by a committee of the legislature.

That legislation was blocked, and eventually killed, by former attorney-general Charles Harnick.

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