Minister can’t be involved in influencing court on vandalism: attorney general

Daniel MacEachern
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The provincial attorney general says it’s inappropriate for the justice minister to lobby for tougher court sentences for vandalism, in response to a request from the City of Mount Pearl.

The Shoppers building at the Topsail Road/Columbus Drive intersection in St. John’s is covered by graffiti in this file photo. Mount Pearl city council, like St. John’s city council, is working on ways to deal with graffiti. — Telegram file photo

Mount Pearl city council — like its counterpart in St. John’s — is considering new ways to prevent graffiti and keep down the costs of cleaning it up, including submitting victim impact statements during court cases of people charged.

Following three recent instances of conditional or suspended sentences given out, with no restitution ordered, the city wrote to Justice Minister Darin King, asking the government to consider tougher sentences and to require vandals to cover the costs of cleanup.

But Attorney General Felix Collins, responding via letter, has told the city his department can’t be involved.

“Longstanding and fundamental principles of judicial independence make it completely inappropriate for any minister to attempt to influence the court in the exercise of its discretion regarding sentencing or on any other matter,” wrote Collins.

“He was saying it would be inappropriate for the politicians to get involved at his level,” said Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms on Monday. “In other words, to start insisting that there be some sort of minimum sentence or automatic restitution, things of that nature.”

What that means for Mount Pearl, said Simms, is that the onus is on the city to make the plea that there should be restitution for any damage done to city property.

“There is a process that allows for us to make that plea, and it is our intent to do so in the future,” said Simms. “We shouldn’t have to pay the labour costs, pay the repair costs, pay the material costs, to fix this kind of damage.”

Simms said he understands Collins’ position. “I appreciate how you don’t want the political wing of the province engaged in what happens with the judiciary,” he said. “The independence of the court is sacrosanct, so I totally appreciate where the minister is coming from.”

Collins did not return a request for comment.

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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