Although I agree that McKay’s bill to change the penalty for impaired driving causing death is nothing more than an election stunt, the editorial is otherwise inaccurate. The existing minimum of $1,000 fine and one year’s prohibition applies to the offence of impaired driving. I defy the writer to find a single case in which someone actually received a $1,000 fine for impaired driving causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Significant jail sentences are the rule for this offence already.
Mandatory minimum sentences remove judicial discretion and the ability to tailor sentences to a particular case. They also shift the discretion to the prosecutor, who has the ability to decide what charges are actually approved. This takes the process of how to deal with an offender out of the public eye and into the office of Crown Counsel, in a process that is private and unreviewable.
The deterrent effect has been shown to be questionable. Repeated studies show that there is no effect on recidivism at all and that the effect on first time offenders is questionable. Studies do show that people are not deterred by potential punishments; they are deterred by social consequences, shaming, and the certainty of punishment. One effect mandatory minimums do have is to reduce the number of guilty pleas and increase the number of matters that go to trial, straining an already taxed system.
The crime rate has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years, and that includes impaired driving. The Conservative Government uses rhetoric and bluster to try and appear “tough on crime” with little beneficial effect to society, and huge expense. Your editorial supports that strategy and actually helps the Conservative Government’s propaganda mission by implying that judges are actually imposing $1,000 sentences for impaired driving causing death.
Dennis J. Evans