It’s overkill to take stu­dents to court over par­ties

PressReader - Tke Channel - It’s overkill to take stu­dents to court over par­ties
A joint pi­lot project launched by Queen’s Univer­sity, Kingston po­lice and the City of Kingston to quell the in­fa­mous an­nual chaos of Queen’s Univer­sity par­ties can be aptly sum­ma­rized as: Empty the streets by fill­ing the court­rooms.The so­lu­tion of what’s called the “Univer­sity District Safety Ini­tia­tive” is to is­sue sum­monses to ap­pear in court, in­stead of tick­ets wherein the fine is payable by phone or on­line, to par­ty­go­ers rev­el­ling in the mass tur­moil that is Kingston’s Aberdeen Street on ori­en­ta­tion week, home­com­ing, and St. Patrick’s Day. Yet, the ini­tia­tive is likely to only re­sult in fill­ing al­ready­over­bur­dened court­rooms.As an un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent, I am an­gry about this pi­lot project, as are my friends. I dis­agree that par­ty­ing on a city street is such an im­por­tant ac­tiv­ity that it de­serves spe­cial pro­tec­tion to in­oc­u­late par­ty­go­ers against li­a­bil­ity from ap­pli­ca­ble by­law and pro­vin­cial of­fences.Let’s be clear: Hold­ing an open beer can dur­ing an ad­mit­tedly wild, yet heav­ily po­liced, univer­sity street party does not war­rant a court ap­pear­ance. It might, at the up­per thresh­old of avail­able reme­dies, war­rant a ticket with an af­fixed fine, but most def­i­nitely not a sum­mons that com­pels at­ten­dance be­fore a Jus­tice of the Peace. That is ex­treme, in the least, and ter­ri­bly mis­guided.The ef­fect of this pi­lot project is a mas­sive waste of al­ready scarce, pre­cious court­room re­sources. The Supreme Court of Canada has been res­o­lutely clear with its de­ci­sion in R. v Jor­dan: Ef­fi­ciency ought to be a hall­mark of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Com­pelled ap­pear­ances, as op­posed to the less bur­den­some res­o­lu­tion of pay­ing a fine on­line or by phone, is typ­i­cal of the un­nec­es­sary pro­ce­dural steps that at­tracted in­tense crit­i­cism in the Jor­dan de­ci­sion.The rel­a­tively low-risk na­ture of the of­fences in ques­tion dur­ing a street party al­lows for a more swift res­o­lu­tion than a court ap­pear­ance. Ad­vo­cacy groups such as the Cana­dian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, rep­re­sent­ing the na­tional in­ter­ests of Cana­dian lawyers, echo this sen­ti­ment in their po­si­tion that an em­pha­sis on early res­o­lu­tion and di­ver­sion of mi­nor charges is nec­es­sary to re­duce court de­lays. This ini­tia­tive pur­posely avoids al­ter­na­tives that help clear dock­ets of low-risk of­fences, and is an­ti­thet­i­cal to the spirit of Jor­dan.The pan­icked lan­guage used to de­scribe the of­fences in ques­tion as “high risk” and “risky” mis­rep­re­sents the re­al­i­ties of these types of pro­vin­cial of­fences. For the most part, these are not crim­i­nal of­fences, mean­ing de­fen­dants are sub­ject to a re­duced thresh­old for con­vic­tion. While re­spect­ing the so­ci­etal need for other mea­sures in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, the $100 set fine for open al­co­hol (which al­most all charges at Queen’s ori­en­ta­tion have been for) ap­pro­pri­ately re­flects the mi­nor na­ture of the of­fence; a sum­mons does not.The de­ter­rence im­plied in this pol­icy is not the pu­n­ish­ment of a $100 fine. Rather, the more nu­anced de­ter­rence is the re­sult­ing headache, anx­i­ety and em­bar­rass­ment of hav­ing to go to court and an­swer to the charge be­fore a Jus­tice of the Peace. The pol­icy uses pro­ce­dural law as the pri­mary pu­n­ish­ment, not the ac­tual pre­scribed con­vic­tion.Such an ap­proach un­der­mines the in­tegrity of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.While nav­i­gat­ing the pro­ce­dural maze that is the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is an aux­il­iary de­ter­rent to any of­fence, it ought not to be the pri­mary. When it is the pri­mary de­ter­rent, as in this case, the pu­n­ish­ment is not pro­por­tional to the of­fence.It is well doc­u­mented ( both in the lit­er­a­ture and on In­sta­gram) that univer­sity street par­ties can be rowdy. But forc­ing stu­dents to court to an­swer a charge that doesn’t ne­ces­si­tate the need for a court ap­pear­ance is not the so­lu­tion. In re­al­ity, it’s bad pol­icy that pro­duces a greater harm of fur­ther over­load­ing court dock­ets than the good it seeks to achieve.Let’s be clear: Hold­ing an open beer can dur­ing an ad­mit­tedly wild, yet heav­ily po­liced, univer­sity street party does not war­rant a court ap­pear­ance. Patrick Mott, a fourth-year crim­i­nol­ogy stu­dent

Kingston’s Aberdeen Street dur­ing ori­en­ta­tion week of­ten at­tracts large crowds of univer­sity stu­dents. Rev­el­ers also tend to show up for home­com­ing and St. Patrick’s Day.

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