Textbook Notes (368,611)
Canada (162,009)
Sociology (1,513)
SOC209H5 (126)


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Paula Maurutto

Ch.1 The Criminal Justice System: An Overview What is the Criminal Justice System?  Only a fraction of the criminal acts committed come to the attention of the police, and only a much smaller fraction of these are heard in the courts or lead to a sentence of incarceration. The Structure of Criminal Justice  In Parliament and in provincial legislatures that elected officials enact and amend laws, establish annual budgets for criminal justice agencies, determine fiscal allocations, and-where necessary conduct investigations and inquiries into various activities of the justice system.  NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and other not-for-profit groups deliver a variety of services on a contract basis –for example, they supervise offenders on bail, assist victims, provide community-based and institutional programming, and supervise paroles The Role and Responsibilities of Governments In Criminal Justice  The division of responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments was spelled out in the Constitution Act, 1867  The basic division is that the federal government decides which behaviors constitute criminal offences, while the provincial/territorial governments are responsible for law enforcement and for administering the justice system.  The federal government plays a major role in policing through agreements with the RCMP, which is involved in federal policing as well as provincial and municipal policing under contract and Native band councils.  The municipal governments of cities and towns play a lesser role, primarily related to policing and bylaw enforcement Federal Government  Because of the Constitution, Parliament in Ottawa has the absolute power to create, amend and repeal criminal law for the entire country. It also sets the procedures for prosecuting persons charged with criminal offences and establishes the punishments that will be imposed for all federal offences. Federal Offences  The code also sets out the procedures for arrest and prosecution and the penalties that may be imposed by a judge following conviction. The Portfolio of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness  Includes the key federal agencies responsible for public safety and security  Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness which provides strategic policy advice and a range of programs and services relating to public security and safety; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the Correctional Service of Canada; and the National Parole Board. Federal Police  The RCMP operates as a federal police force across Canada. It also operates the Canadian Police College, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). Federal Prosecutors, Courts, and Judges  The federal prosecution service (fps), located in the department of justice, is staffed by full-time prosecutors and lawyer agents recruited from the private bar.  Through the Office of the Commissioner for federal judicial affairs, the federal government appoints judges to the various federal courts, such as the Supreme court of Canada and the federal Court of Canada.  The federal Minister of Justice appoints all of the judges in the superior trial courts in the provinces/territories Provincial and Territorial Government  Provisions in the Constitution Act make the ten provinces and three territories responsible for the administration of justice, although (as noted earlier) provincial legislatures are increasingly active in passing quasi-criminal legislation.  Provincial/territorial governments pass laws, oversee police services, prosecute offences, manage courthouses, employ some judges, run programs for offenders, and operate correctional institutions. Provincial/Territorial Offences  The first priority for any money that is recovered is compensation for victims Provincial Police  Provincial governments also oversee independent municipal police departments wherever they exist.  Provincial police statutes set out policies that address training standards, the public complaints process, and other aspects of police practice. Provincial Prosecutors, Courts, and Judges  Every province and territory has an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer, who is responsible (figuratively) for laying charges and prosecuting cases. Provincial/Territorial Corrections  Provincial/territorial governments operate institutional and community corrections. Non-custodial programs include probation, fine option programs, and victim-offender reconciliation programs. There are provincial institutions for offenders whose sentences total less than two years. Municipal Governments  Municipal governments may enact local bylaws, which are valid only within the city limits. Minor penalties –principally fines –are levied for violating these bylaws. Note that no municipally enacted bylaw can encroach on the jurisdiction of another level of government. The Flow of Cases Through The Justice System  The Canadian criminal justice system is an adversarial system. The advocates for each party –in criminal cases the defense lawyer and prosecutor present their cases before a neutral judge or a jury.  Adversarial System: A justice system in which advocates for each party present their cases before a neutral judge or a jury.  Presumption of Innocence: A defendant is deemed innocent of the charge(s) until either convicted or acquitted.  The Crown bears the burden of proof: It is the task of the Crown to prove guilt, not the responsibility of the accused to prove his or her innocence.  Doli incapax (Latin for “too young for evil”): A child under twelve cannot be held criminally responsible or prosecuted for criminal acts.  Insanity: No one is criminally responsible and liable to punishment if incapable of knowing the act was wrong owing to a mental disorder.  Attempts are Crimes: Those who attempt crimes (going beyond merely he planning stage) commit an offence and are generally subject to half the penalty that the completed act would draw.  Critics of the adversarial system contend that the process encourages the parties to present a distorted version of events. There are also concerns with the quality of legal representation for many defendants and the ability of the criminal justice system to solve problems rather than merely reacting to them. The Exercise of Discretion by Criminal Justice Pesonnel  The Criminal justice personnel carry out their tasks within the framework of written laws and policies: but they also exercise considerable discretion when making decisions. This can lead to inconsistencies in how laws are applied, how cases are processed in the courts, and what decisions are made about offenders by correctional officers, parole boards, and parole officers.  Discretion: The freedom to choose between different options when confronted with the need to make a decision.  It would be naïve to think that life experiences and community pressure do not sometimes influence the decisions made by criminal justice personnel. From Community Control to State Law: The Centralization of Authority  Transgressions were no longer responded to on a personal, group, or village basis but were viewed as acts against society as a whole.  The increasing centralization of the social control function resulted in the transfer of power and authorities to governments and criminal justice agencies. Despite the continued growth and proliferation of criminal laws and criminal justice agencies and personnel, there is evidence that formal social control mechanisms are less effective than informal mechanisms in controlling behavior and maintaining order in society. The Foundations of the Legal System  Canadian system is a common law. It emerged from decisions made by judges in the royal courts and was based on the notion of precedent: “whenever a judge makes a decision that is said to be legally enforced, this decision becomes a precedent: a rule that will guide judges in making subsequent decisions in similar cases.  The principle whereby higher courts set precedents that lower courts must follow is known as stare decisis “to stand by.”  All legal systems in Canada are governed by the principle of the rule of law.  Rule of law: The foundation of the Canadian legal system. 1. All citizens are supposed to obey the law, to expect punishment if they break the law, and to look only to the legal system to respond to transgressions committed against them. 2. The legal system, in turn, must be fair to impartial in its responses 3. Only elected officials can decide what is against the law. 4. A law must be written clearly so that everyone –or at least lawyers can understand which action or activity is being referred to. 5. A law must apply equally to everyone –for example, to men and women, and to rich and poor. 6. To give the law “teeth,” a penalty must be defined for breaking the law. Criminal Law  There are two general categories of law: public law and private law.  Public law deals with those matters that affect society as a whole in its interactions with governments.  There are four types of public law: criminal law, constitutional law, administrative law, and taxation law.  Criminal law can be defined as “that body of law that deals with conduct considered to harmful to society as a whole that is prohibited by statute, prosecuted and punished by the government”  Private law, by contrast, regulates relationships between individuals other than the state and is used to resolve disputes between private citizens.  In Canadian society, criminal law: 1. Acts as a mechanism of social control 2. Maintains order 3. Defines the parameters of acceptable behavior 4. Reduces the risk of personal retaliation (that is, vigilantism, or people taking the law into t
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