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Adam Radwanski

Where justice and politics meet Add to ...

As you may have gathered from my piece following that fateful day last September, I'm not exactly president of the Michael Bryant Fan Club.

That said, I have much less time for the people popping up today trying to make political hay over the dropping of charges against him in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard.

Set aside the various cyclists unwavering in their belief that Bryant is a murderer. Their certainty, even as Sheppard's adoptive father accepts the Crown's decision, is somewhat baffling; even more so is their eagerness to paint Sheppard as a martyr, given that he seems to have behaved in a uniquely aggressive way. But that crowd seems to be guided by emotion, which is maybe understandable given how heated the Bikes vs. Cars debate has become in recent years.

The really offensive behaviour comes from those seeking to stir up those emotions, and those of other Canadians naturally suspicious of the justice system, in order to score a few political points.

The Twitter feed of Kory Teneycke - formerly the Prime Minister's communications director, and thus presumably a serious individual most of the time - is instructive on that front.

Teneycke began his foray into legal commentary by expressing his doubt that the media would show as much interest into Bryant's dropped charges as Rahim Jaffer's. When it was pointed out to him that there was a big difference - the Crown explained its decision in Bryant's case, but not in Jaffer's - he offered that he thought "the big difference is someone is dead."

Next, he tried a different tack. "So as Ontario AG, all the prosecutors would have worked for Bryant," he offered. "Interesting."

That would indeed have been interesting, if not for the fact - mentioned in pretty well every news report - that the province had imported a special prosecutor from British Columbia to avoid any conflict of interest. When he was corrected, he proceeded to inform the "Liberal hoarde" that "independent" is in the eye of the beholder.

Teneycke finally moved on to what I guess would be a more substantial point - that settling cases before they go to court "undermines the perception of justice," especially when those cases involve "the rich and powerful."

That's a nice populist argument, but it's also a rather simplistic one. Here we have an avowed fiscal conservative, arguing that a prosecutor should have wasted public money by taking to court a case that he thought he had no reasonable prospect of winning, so that people like the aforementioned fiscal conservative wouldn't be able to float ill-informed conspiracy theories.

In the midst of all this, Teneycke raised one relevant point - that those who can't afford "big-time lawyers" are likelier to go to trial. I suspect they're likelier to plead guilty to some lesser charge, but there certainly doesn't seem to be quite the same justice system for everyone. But presumably, that means that other people with inadequate cases against them should get off more easily - not that we should waste time with show trials against the likes of Bryant.

In any event, there are intelligent ways to discuss the shortcomings of the justice system, and that occasionally - though not usually - can be addressed through individual cases. But the kind of smug, flippant punditry that lends itself to scoring points on political panels clearly isn't one of those ways.

 

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