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Eight weeks and counting on Svend Robinson Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 07 June 2004

Well, here we are two months later, still waiting to hear whether Svend Robinson will be prosecuted for stealing a ring on April 9. What do you suppose is so devilish hard about this case?

Or maybe the Criminal Code is now enforced only on people who can't call national press conferences and burst into tears.

Note that the real suspect at this point is the justice system, not Svend Robinson. Svend's just foolish and fallible like the rest of us. He had been shopping around Vancouver for a fancy jewel for his friend. He saw one he wanted. He stole it. He got caught. He confessed. He made excuses.

Such is life. People sometimes steal things and have to be prosecuted. That's why we have a Criminal Code. If you steal something worth more than $5,000 (which Robinson by his own admission did) you're supposed to go to jail for up to ten years. It serves as a deterrent to people like Svend and you and me.

Except that in this case nothing's been done and nobody's been charged.

In fact, Svend's political sympathizers are so numerous and irrational I wonder if he'll face any legal consequences at all. He's already talking about his imminent return to the "front lines."

When I ask people about this, I'm amazed how many have already acquitted him. "Give him a break, he made a mistake." "He was under stress." "The damage has been repaired."

Do these people care nothing about personal responsibility and justice? Why are they prejudging Svend's case?

All we know is that Robinson took a ring that didn't belong to him. We don't know whether or how much to blame him.

But we have a process for finding out. It's called a trial.

To make sure I wasn't missing something, I called a senior federal crown prosecutor of many years' experience.

As I thought, it doesn't matter whether the injured party "presses charges." A criminal offence is against the Queen (or if you prefer, the public), not the individual victim. Nor does it matter that Svend returned the ring.

As to whether Robinson really had any good excuses, that's for a judge to decide AFTER he has heard all the facts in a fair and open trial.

My prosecutor friend explained that the only factor a crown counsel should weigh is whether he can prove his case. The rest is up to the judge.

Shouldn't a prosecutor also weigh the "public interest," I asked.

No, said my friend, except in fluke cases where prosecution would be absurd. From the prosecutor's perspective, the public interest lies in proving whether a crime happened, which requires a trial.

Allowing the Crown to pick and choose based on a prosecutor's individual notion of the "public interest" gives far too much power to the government. It amounts to the government conducting the trial in secret. If you're a popular politician you get off.

Once that starts, said my friend, the special treatment will soon expand to anyone with influence (judges, prominent businessmen, advocates of trendy causes). From there it's a short step to rich gangsters buying their way out of trials.

So it will be interesting to see what charge Svend eventually faces--if indeed he ever faces anything.If I were a federal Tory, I'd be pretty satisfied with the first few days of this election campaign.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
 
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.





 
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