Uneasy lies the head

If I were the Attorney General of Ontario, I would personally be investigating the qualifications of all Crown Attorneys under my jurisdiction. Crown Attorneys are responsible for prosecuting most of the criminal offences in the province, and if recent high-profile cases are are any example, they are doing a poor job of it.

Time and again in his 308-page decision on the 31 charges against Senator Mike Duffy, Justice Charles Vaillancourt repeated the phrase, “I am not satisfied that the Crown has proven the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.” Duffy’s vindication will most likely mean the end of any investigation against Senator Pam Wallin. The RCMP is not likely to lay charges against her now.

Another Crown office was also found wanting in the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial. Witnesses called to testify appeared to be poorly prepared for their appearances. Surely a case could have been made despite the follow-on meetings between Ghomeshi and his accusers. But the Crown did not seem to be sufficiently responsive to the new evidence presented in court by the defendant’s counsel.

There’s a different but equally worrisome issue at the Ontario Securities Commission where proceedings have been going on for four years against Sino-Forest. There’s no question investors were defrauded by this timber company that claimed to own forests when it didn’t. But there will be no repercussions. All the executives are resident in China and have never shown up for the hearings. No fine or jail term can possibly apply. What a waste of public resources.

Maybe the root problem is that the vast majority of good lawyers prefer higher-paying private practice roles. The Attorney General needs to look at increasing the pay of public service lawyers working for the province, focus efforts where results are most likely, and retrain all staff to improve their performance in court.

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