By Jason Menard
Justice is blind. While the positive image behind this statement implies that all are equal in the eyes of the criminal justice system, the negative connotation is that our justice system also suffers from a horrendous lack of vision.
Yes, justice may be blind, but that doesn’t mean that the community as a whole will merely follow in blind allegiance to its principles – especially when dangerous criminals are increasingly benefiting from questionable calls by those in our justice system.
When Christopher Broad, an admitted sex offender, steps of the bus and essentially warns the community that they should be afraid for their children, the community has a right to be concerned. That fear is augmented by the fact that a Superior Court judge expressed certainty that this man would be before the courts again – moments before he sentenced him to time served and released him into the public.
And just recently, a man charged with multiple shootings in the downtown core gets released on bail – then promptly disappears. It’s enough to make one lose faith in the criminal justice system. And that’s one path we don’t want to find ourselves taking.
Obviously I’m not so naïve to believe that this 32-year-old sex offender — who pled guilty on Tuesday to forcibly confining a nine-year-old boy and possessing child pornography – is the only predator currently taking refuge in our fair city. And there’s something to be said for knowing who to watch out for. But none of us in this community relishes the idea of someone with this predilection coming to town, especially when he’s admitted that there is a potential that he can fall prey to his own demons.
The judge in Timmins who let him go expressed the belief that he’ll leave “a wake of tattered and shattered lives,” on his way back into the justice system. Parents throughout this community have to wonder why our children are being put at risk. Why does one more child have to have their innocence taken from them before the justice system does it job.
And what happens if someone makes the misguided decision that they will cure the disease that the justice system has inflicted on our community? Would any of us be surprised that this could happen? Should we?
Our system of justice and order is predicated on the belief that our police and legal system will catch the bad guys so that the good guys can live their lives in peace. We can safely go about our lives, not armed to the teeth, because we feel confident that there are those watching out for our best interests. But what happens when the community feels its protectors are abdicating their jobs? What happens when red tape threatens to cut off the Thin Blue Line from the community it’s dedicated to protecting?
Anger and fear are a toxic combination. And unfortunately hysteria can run rampant amongst the masses. Actions normally frowned upon can suddenly become much more appealing when the justifications hit closer to home.
I have two children and I don’t know how I’d react if they were abused by someone. I’d like to think that I would be content to let the justice system run its course. But I’m not sure I’m that good of a man. Just the thought brings my blood to a boil and sends hatred coursing through my veins. And if my child’s abductor was given a light sentence in return for the life sentence that they’ve inflicted on my son or daughter, the temptation would be strong to exact a measure of revenge. I like to believe that I’d stand behind the integrity of the justice system and support it to the ends – but I don’t know how I would react if that faith was put to the test. Do any of us?
Is it right? No. Is it primal? Yes. Is it reality? Unfortunately.
We’re not that far removed from the days of vigilante mobs. We’ve seen in this generation how fear and anger can make groups of people do strange things. The only thing that separates us from that type of mass hysteria and the evils that it can bring is the fact that we have a set of rules and laws that ensure we live in a civilized society.
The police do an admirable job with the resources at hand. We, as a public, can feel their frustration when criminals of this nature fall out of the system into their laps. And there’s also the need to understand that these criminals need to have the opportunity to get the help they need – to rehabilitate and reform in the hopes of becoming a functioning part of the community. But to do that, we have to trust that our lawmakers and justice system will do right by us. We need to know that our interests are being protected – otherwise it won’t be long until a misguided few will take matters into their own hands to protect their families.
Justice can remain blind, but it needs to have the vision to see what can happen when those who are supposed to be protected by its laws suddenly feel abandoned by them.
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