Ministers can toughen vandalism sentences: Justice critic

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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The attorney general is shirking his duties by refusing to get involved with a city’s request for tougher penalties for vandals, says the provincial Liberal justice
critic.

MHA Jim Bennett told The Telegram on Tuesday that provincial Attorney General Felix Collins can — despite Collins’ assertion to the contrary — seek tougher sentences and mandatory restitution for people found guilty of vandalism of public and private property.

The City of Mount Pearl, looking for new ways to combat vandalism, wrote to then-justice minister Darin King earlier this year, asking the department to crack down on the crime. Collins responded in writing, saying cabinet ministers can’t get 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,” Collins said in a June letter to the city.

Nonsense, says Bennett, who, like Collins, is a lawyer. The attorney general and justice minister can decide what priorities and policies will be, he said.

“If the minister or AG, if he thinks they ought not to be participating in the administration of justice, then I think that’s a complete abdication of his job,” he

said.

“If it’s organized crime, or it’s armed robberies, or it’s domestic violence, directives come down regularly from cabinet ministers. They’re the people who are entrusted by government to look after the well-being of the citizenry generally.”

Mount Pearl’s request — tougher penalties, mandatory restitution — isn’t a major one, said Bennett.

“Why wouldn’t he do that if it helps advance the administration of justice?”

Collins has not returned requests for comment.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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