Friday, April 25, 2008

$200 for a Potted Plant?

Fascinating piece in the Courier today about how City hall has managed to infuriate more small businesses, in this case, in Dunbar.

There is a new Business Improvement Association in the 'hood and it's madly charging about spending money on banners and potted plants. Money that is culled from the mom and pop shops and spent in a pretty vigorous way.

Many of the shops are furious, as they should be.

Read the story here.

Alex on Politics - Loco and otherwise

title was changed to 'the Dance of Doom?"
From todays 24hrs. Enjoy!

Sent from my iPhone
Subject: Column in 24 hours- Friday April 25, 2008


By A. G. Tsakumis

‘Rebel With A Clause’

The march toward the November municipal elections continues to provide me with the kind of reflection I just cannot ignore. It reinforces in my occasionally befogged noggin that desperate times are, indeed, for desperate people.

To the South, the Democrats battle royale on Tuesday, sealed it for me, as the comparison was, well, easy.

I almost fell out of my chair from laughter when watching Hickory Clinton, who is as ignorant as she is insufferable, claim victory in Pennsylvania. That dear, sweet lizard, she can’t even do maths. A nine-point victory extended her campaign life-support for approximately another month or so. Going into the convention she will trail by an insurmountable triple digit deficit, but will have pummeled wistful Pierre Elliot Obama and his, thus far, empty rhetorical hopefulness into a fluttering furball, which Sen. John McCain will vacuum into history’s dustbin. But there she was, defiant, stoic even, shoveling the steaming fertilizer as deftly as any farmhand.

In some measure, I couldn’t help but detect the trend of delusion even here at home, and, the comparison was simply too tempting, since the evidence is all there—and then some.

With frenetic efforts to revive his image, making no apparent difference in the minds of the vast majority of Vancouverites, Sam Sullivan’s campaign geniuses have hit the panic-button, only to shatter it. This week and last, I received no less than a dozen and a half emails and messages from all over the city, telling me of the endless bombardment of calls being made to their homes by Sir Spamalot’s horsemen. One older fellow received no less than six calls in three days, well after he had told the first caller that he wasn’t supportive of Sammy and will vote for Peter Ladner (an increasingly popular theme). He explained, further, that he’d not be supporting the Mayor ever again and would like to speak to Sam to tell him that he was a “clod”.

The canvasser promptly ended that happy session.

But this kind of blowback against Sam Sullivan should come as no surprise, notwithstanding the desperate efforts to breathe life into his flagging campaign. Clr. Suzanne Anton recently remarked to an NPA colleague that she was astonished with the negative comments she received about the Mayor, after having sent out an email blast to her core supporters. Doesn’t say much about her level of awareness, does it?

Then again, there are always those you can count on, who will stop at nothing, in desperate times, to raise the semi-catatonic Sullivan caravan from the proverbial ditch, with something snort-worthy, even captive.

Enter Clr. Kimbo Capripants, who never fails to disappoint, with her latest exhibition of ‘Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome’. With air-tank fully attached to both ears, she mused this week (as did the Mayor) about why the Vancouver Police Department was not more attentive to a rally for the legalization of marijuana. Such serious flouting of the laws and civil disobedience is not allowed according to Spammy and the Blonde Ambitionette.

But what do you do with 6,000 people, all higher than a kite? It’s not like the NPA have been generous with the VPD…not until an election loomed…

I know, next time, we’ll have the boys in blue leave the chemical gulag on the Downtown Eastside for a pot pep rally, because you never know when those dastardly pot-smokers, known for incredible violence, will beat each other over the head with a bag of Doritos or a slice of pizza.

We must stand on our principles, after all.

Luckily, desperate people don’t have any.

Justice Craig is "Out" on Bail


I enclose my column “The Revolving Door of Bail” published April 23/08.

I will come back to the subject in a later column to explain my view that there is a soft-handed approach to bail because judges today are making too much of the presumption of innocence.

What I will argue is that the presumption of innocence is simply a procedural guarantee that clicks in at trial no matter how obvious guilt may be, to ensure that the case is proved beyond a reasonable doubt; and that acquittal is never a pronouncement of innocence.

It seems to me the presumption of innocence should be confined to what it is: a practical way of ensuring that at the beginning of a trial through until a verdict is reached that there must be a scrupulous production of evidence in demonstration of proof that supports a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence is a presupposition, required as a precondition to the trial proceeding, to remind one and all that the trial must be fair and the judge or jury remain impartial no matter how inflammatory be the allegations.

I will further explain that in bail hearings the procedural protection applies only if the person charged intends to plead not guilty. Where there is a declared intention to plead not guilty and the crown is seeking detention then the burden on the Crown in showing just cause for denial of bail is only “probability” and not “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

An acquittal is not a declaration of innocence; and that reminds me of the Scottish way of doing things – their finding on acquittal is “not proven.”



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

THERE is a connection between North Carolina moonshiners in the 1950s and ‘60s – and a revered American senator, the late Sam Ervin – and the senseless murder of three young children in Merritt B.C., on April 6, 2008.

The connection is bail reform and its unintended consequence: revolving-door criminals and the thoughtless release of dangerous sociopaths and psychopaths.

Lurking among the endless stream of offenders released on bail to await trial are psychopaths who, upon gaining their liberty, go straight to their women and commit murder; and sometimes, most evilly, they murder their own children. Solemn words of a bail judge and the admonition in bail papers to abide by the law and have no contact with victims mean nothing to them.

Sam Ervin was a down-home southerner who became interested in bail reform because of his many legal contacts with moonshiners. His biographer, Paul R Clancy, quoted Ervin: “Their only vice was makin’ moonshine likker and they felt they were doin’ no harm, that they had a prescriptive right to do that. They were honourable, paid their debts and told the truth.”

Most moonshiners were penniless and lanquished in jail awaiting trial. The upshot: Sam Ervin’s 1966 Bail Reform Act that permitted defendants of good character to be released on their own recognizance pending trial.

In 1869, our newly minted federal government enacted a bail process for indictable offences that effectively left the denial of bail in the discretion of a judge. This judicial exercise would certainly have been tilted heavily in favour of the prosecution since it focussed on the need to ensure attendance in court and also the circumstances of the offence, severity of the penalty, strength of the case and character of the accused. Few offenders would have had the means to employ defence counsel and there was no legal aid.

I am left with a historical impression that too many cases went by way of denial of bail; that in cases in which bail was granted it became tantamount to detention awaiting trial because most offenders would be unable to meet the surety requirement or post the alternative of cash bail.

For 100 years our criminal justice system had a lock’em-up culture. It ended in 1970 when our copy-cat reformers fashioned a Canadian Bail Reform Act. In 1972 the Criminal Code was rejigged with “judicial interim release.” Overnight the criminal justice system morphed from lock’em-up toughness to anything-but-jail and a bail procedure that emphasizes release without regard for public safety especially in wife-beating cases.

And so since the 1970s, about one quarter of all persons arrested do not even go before a judge to be processed for judicial interim release; they get a quick pass to their first appearance in court when an arresting officer or the officer in charge issues them a ticket called an appearance notice or promise to appear.

Over the past 35 years judicial interim release has turned into a real honest-to-God revolving door for cunning and wily criminals, many of them so brazen that they matter-of-factly tell arresting officers that they’ll be back on the street in a day or two – and they are.

Today, whether released by a police officer or a bail judge, defendants soon figure out that their best defence is to go on the lam. They know that most judges won’t have the fortitude to try them ex parte or in absentia, and that their victims will lose faith in the justice system.

The remainder of persons arrested do end up in court for a bail hearing, however most of them walk out released on a written undertaking or a recognizance with conditions. It is a process that attempts to create the least interference with each defendant’s liberty awaiting trial.

The basic philosophy of judicial interim release is based on pure logic and not on human experience: that prior to conviction all offenders who do not constitute a danger to the public and their victims and who will show up for trial ought not to be in custody. That philosophy is based on the mistaken notion that most offenders are ordinary law abiding citizens who have committed a one-off offence. Even worse is the judicial logic that a record of criminal convictions is an accurate measure of criminal behaviour. Common sense tells us that recorded convictions are but the tip of an iceberg of felony.

The only time there is an actual mini-trial over detention is when a prosecutor decides to “show cause” and provides a basis for detention of the accused. Even then the rights of accused are protected because detention is only justified a) to ensure attendance in court and b) if there is a substantial likelihood of the commission of further offences. A third ground for detention deals with the public interest in the administration of justice where the offence has horrific implications, however the Supreme Court of Canada has cautioned that this ground for detention be used sparingly.

Ervin had the best of intentions in advocating bail reform and securing it in 1966. The same may be said of our reform of bail in 1972. Yet there is a black side: that public safety in Canada is being eroded by an ever revolving door in every bail court in our land. Too many criminals seem to be able to manipulate the bail system and get before a sympathetic judge or have the luck to draw a non-combative prosecutor and out the door they go free to commit more crimes.

The horrific murder of three children on April 6 in Merritt B. C. is a case in point. Three days before, their father, Allan Dwayne Schoenborn, was arrested for uttering threats against a child in a school yard. A bail hearing was conducted by video conference between police and Schoenborn in Merritt, and a judicial justice of the peace in Burnaby. Though the police officer made a forceful argument that included the accused record, the justice of the peace gave Schoenborn a break and released him. After reading all published accounts of the proceedings I believe that a hard-nosed judge would have denied him bail.

Three days after he was released Schoenborn’s three little children were murdered. He is the only suspect.

Schoenborn’s release on bail was not an exception – it is the way our system of judicial interim release works: a tinderbox for more crime.

Contact Judicial Gadfly at or by posting your comment directly on the Writer’s Corner of


Must dash out to an early morning meeting.

Will post later this afternoon.

Thank the gods if you are eating today.

Read today's Province column...