Globe and Mail

Courts too lenient, most Canadians say

By Canadian Press
Sunday, August 11
The Globe and Mail

Ottawa - Canadians believe the country's courts are not handing out severe enough sentences to criminals and view judges as the weakest link in the legal process, new polls suggest.

When asked for their general opinion on sentences handed down by the courts, 63 per cent of Canadians said they are not severe enough, while only 2 per cent said they go too far. Meanwhile, 31 per cent said they are about right, an Ottawa newspaper reported Sunday.

In a separate national survey, many Canadians rated judges the least effective members of the legal system when compared with prosecutors, defence lawyers and police.

Asked to rate judges in the justice system, only 50 per cent said they were doing a good job, while 48 per cent said they believed they were doing an average or poor job.

In comparison, police officers were given a top rating, with 67 per cent saying they are doing a good job while only 32 per cent believe they are performing average or poorly. As well, the lawyers in the court, both those prosecuting and defending the accused, received a higher rating.

Irene Arseneau, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the polls may reflect the media's focus on controversial cases where some sentences are criticized for being too lenient.

She said while the public would likely be comfortable with most sentences handed out, they may only read or hear about those that have upset some people.

Ms. Arseneau said one of the polls also found Canadians less accepting of conditional sentences when it comes to sexual assault and domestic violence.

The poll indicated 42 per cent of Canadians disagree with a conditional sentence for a drinking and driving offence where a passenger is seriously injured, with only 31 per cent agreeing and 26 per cent neutral.

But 46 per cent agree with a two-years-less-a-day jail term for the same offence, and only 29 per cent disagree.

Each of the two Ipsos-Reid polls, performed country-wide earlier this year, involved 1,000 telephone interviews with adult Canadians. The margin of error for both polls was 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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