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Time to get tougher on repeat offenders, UBCM tells Victoria

Union of B.C. convention speakers expressed frustration at the numbers of repeat offenders going through the province's justice
Jail cell bars - 4x6 Getty Images
UBCM calls for justice reform and better-informed sentencing in the public interest.

The provincial and federal governments need to reform the justice system to deal more strictly with repeat offenders, say delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).

On Sept. 16, Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc told the annual convention in Whistler that her northwestern city has a severe problem with prolific offenders.

"These challenges are not being met by the court justice system," she said.

Leclerc illustrated her argument with a tale of one prolific local offender who has amassed 338 police files.

In the past four years, he's had 26 convictions, including multiple breaches of release conditions. She said he was arrested twice in February and charged with 12 offences. At the time, he had six warrants for his arrest and was on probation.

He was released the next day.

"How can we help people if we can't even get them into the system?" she asked.

The justice reform resolution, which Terrace proposed, said all too often the B.C. Prosecution Service determines not to recommend charges for criminal offences referred by RCMP, as charges are not in the public interest.

UBCM delegates passed the resolution, which calls on Victoria to ensure the B.C. Prosecution Service "live up to its vision, mission, and value statements and consider public safety and fairness when dealing with prolific offenders, and furthermore that guidelines be developed as to what constitutes 'the public interest' with respect to pursuing charges for criminal offences."

Delegates also passed a Lillooet resolution to ask Victoria and Ottawa to address issues with Canada's and British Columbia's justice system, including the proposed imposition of weightier consequences and greater.

Lillooet Coun. Laurie Hopfl said the opioid crisis has highlighted the issues of repeat offender drug dealers. She suggested changing how the justice system deals with dealers could help change the face of the crisis.

Past resolutions on the issues

The resolution noted the UBCM has in the past passed resolutions to:

• Enact legislative and regulatory changes to the criminal justice system to apply stricter penalties and ensure adequate incarceration of prolific criminals, as well as the consistent use of electronic monitoring when individuals are released on conditions;

• Ensure prolific offenders are sentenced effectively and supported by credible programs to address underlying challenges such as substance abuse or mental illness;

• Amend or create laws or policies that will prohibit offenders labelled high risk, following their release from prison, from residing in the community or the vicinity of the community where they committed crimes;

• Escalate sentences for chronic offenders as part of a national integrated crime reduction strategy that also seeks to re-emphasize the protection of society and the responsibility of individuals for their criminal behaviour, and;

• Change the law with respect to "repeat offenders," including conditions around release into the community, treatment programs and rehabilitation benchmarks.

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