Opinion

Simple justice ignored

By Lorrie Goldstein, Toronto Sun

Some call it the principle of Occam’s razor. Others, the KISS theory, as in “Keep it Simple, Stupid.”

What it means is that in assessing any situation, the simplest explanation is often the best.

So while pundits again reach into their bottomless bag of complex explanations for Saturday’s mass shooting at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, in which one man died and six bystanders were wounded, let me propose that the simplest explanation is the most logical.

That is, that our criminal justice system is inadequate to deal with gangs and gangsters, because it doesn’t do what it says it will do.

This has nothing to do with the ongoing debate over the Harper Tories’ “get-tough” agenda on crime, or the judicial pushback against mandatory minimum sentences, or with opposition calls for more social spending to address the “root causes” of future crimes.

Rather, it is the simple observation that if governments competently enforced the laws we already have for crimes that are happening now, incidents like Saturday’s shooting would be greatly reduced.

Simply put, had the justice system worked as it was supposed to, neither the alleged gunman, Christopher Husbands, 23, nor the fellow gang member he is charged with murdering, Ahmed Hassan, 24, would have been anywhere near the Eaton Centre in Toronto last Saturday.

Husbands, who has previous drug convictions and other run-ins with the law, was supposed to be under house arrest while awaiting trial on a November 2010 sexual assault charge. His bail conditions stipulated he was not to leave his home, except to go to school, nor be in possession of firearms.

(Despite his criminal record, bail conditions and sexual assault charge, Husbands was, inexplicably, working part-time for the City of Toronto up until May 18, overseeing young children attending an after-school program. Officials told the Toronto Sun, which broke the story, a required criminal background check “fell through the cracks.”)

Meanwhile, the dead man, Ahmed Hassan, shouldn’t even have been in Toronto.

Until his murder, Hassan, who had previous convictions for assault and theft, was wanted in Alberta on outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court to answer cocaine trafficking and other charges dating to January 2010.

Leaving aside what happened in this latest shooting, which will be up to the courts to decide, almost every time there’s a shooting involving gangsters, we learn not only that the subjects are “known to police” but that at the time of the incident they were out on bail, or parole, or under house arrest, having been previously charged or convicted of other crimes.

This isn’t surprising. Few criminals start out by gunning down other criminals in public places, with utter disregard for the lives of innocent bystanders.

Before that happens, they commit a series of escalating offences, typically involving increasing levels of violence, which our justice system does nothing to deter, even when it comes to such basic things as enforcing parole, bail and house arrest orders and holding people responsible when they are violated.

That’s the simple thing that needs to be corrected. Yes, it would cost more money and resources, plus a commitment by governments to run the justice system competently.

Obviously, this is too complex a concept for politicians to understand.

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