Knox: We like our justice well-aged, like a fine wine

Jack Knox Victoria Times Colonist / Kamloops Daily News
April 18, 2012 01:00 AM

"What a game!" I said, and chucked a brick through a window, just like last year.

And just like last year, she looked at the broken glass, then at me. "You know it's not supposed to be your own window, right?"

I shrugged, tried to avoid eye contact, turned pink at the ears. Last June, there was an excuse: ignorance. This time, with one solid night of drunken anarchy under our belts, I should be better at this rioting stuff. Particularly since I predicted last year's upheaval.

Not to go all Don Cherry on you, but I told you so. Predicted the Vancouver riot in a column 10 days before it happened.

Also wrote, two days after the chaos, that despite Premier Christy Clark's off-with-their-heads rhetoric there wasn't a snowball's chance in L.A. that the rioters would face justice by the time this year's playoffs began, not with our courts constipated with the equivalent of a four-sailing wait.

Other jurisdictions might like a legal system that metes out punishment as swiftly and reliably as a McDonald's drive-thru, but here in B.C. we would rather take our time. We prefer our justice well-aged, like a fine wine, the kind you savour slowly before turning the empty bottle into a Molotov cocktail and hucking it at a cop car on Georgia Street.

It has been 10 months since the Stanley Cup disgrace.

In that time, exactly three people have had their day in court.


Compare that to the British experience. Less than two months after the Vancouver debacle, England was rocked by a series of riots between Aug. 6 and 10.

By Sept. 12, the BBC reported that 1,715 people had been charged, and that two-thirds of them remained in custody. By Sept. 16 the Daily Mail said 90 per cent of those convicted of burglary had been sent to jail.

The English rioters, three-quarters of whom already had criminal records, were slammed with sentences that were much stiffer than normal. In October the Appeal Court, in upholding the four-year terms given two men who used Facebook to promote rioting, ruled that the level of mob violence demanded a harsh response.

Last week, a 34-year-old man who burned down a shop in Croydon was locked up for 11 1/2 years, the longest sentence handed any rioter. The 22-year-old actor who played the bully Crabbe in the Harry Potter movies got two years for his, um, role in the riots.

Here at home, police have recommended 508 charges against 175 suspected riot participants. Crown prosecutors have approved 225 counts against 85 of those individuals.

The day after the Vancouver riot, Clark promised to hunt down the thugs: "We will push for full justice."

She just didn't say when.

By the time of the riot her government was already in possession of 2010 report that showed thousands of criminal cases at risk of being thrown out because of an unreasonable delay in bringing them to trial.

An updated version of the report, Justice Delayed, shows that as of September the wait for a run-of-the-mill half-day trial in Vancouver's Main Street courthouse, where riot suspects must be tried, sat at 13 months. That means that after a charge has been approved, and after the accused has made a first appearance and been arraigned, it will still take more than a year for the trial to begin. If the provincial government was your mother and caught you drinking under age, it would ground you, but not until you turned 30.

Shamefaced, I began sweeping up the broken glass.

"Embarrassed?" she asked.

Yes, though I wasn't sure whether it was because of last June's riot, or by how long it has taken to deal with rioters - or, for that matter, anyone else wading into the tar pit that is B.C.'s justice system.

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