Thursday, October 07, 2010

What has gone wrong with the law?

It's a three-fer today for the blinding stupidity of the justice system. First we have Dr.Dawg and James C Morton drawing attention to Toronto shopkeeper David Chen, arrested for capturing and holding a thief.

Next up, Alison details the ongoing torment of Gary McCullough, the schizophrenic eccentric man arrested for the apparent crime of being in Toronto during the G20.

And now the CBC tells me a 69 year old Alzheimer's sufferer is locked up because he didn't recognise his wife and assaulted her, and the police arrested him despite the objections of his wife.
A Winnipeg woman says she's desperate to get her mentally ill husband out of jail after he was charged more than a month ago and held in custody in connection with an assault. Rose McLeod said her 69-year-old husband, Joe, suffers from Alzheimer's. She said he woke up on Sept. 2 and became aggressive with her after he didn't recognize her. He pushed her to the ground and she was cut, McLeod said, and she called police because she wasn't sure what else to do.
She thought she could get some assistance from officers, but she didn't expect them to arrest and cart Joe away. He's been in a medical ward of the Winnipeg Remand Centre ever since, she said.
My grandmother has dementia. Once a strong, capable woman, made of steel, she is reduced to incoherence, confusion, and perpetual distress, failing even to recognise her own family. But the cops would certainly have a real reason to arrest someone should they ever lay a hand on her for something she did in her state. 
In all instances the legal system, beginning with the police, has lost all sense of nuance and context. It seems to be run by Legal Literalists. What possible public good does it serve to charge a shopkeeper holding a thief? What possible good does it do to charge and hold the mentally ill, other than compound the stress in their already difficult lives? Have the cops changed their mottos from "To protect and to serve" to "We put the crime in every occassion"?
It is no bloody wonder there are apparently scads of "unreported crimes" and the Cons want nothing but prisons from sea to shining sea, because it just doesn't take much at all these days to find yourself in cuffs and jail.

Why would you even involve the legal system anymore?


Luc said...

Yes, these issues seem like the jackbooted response of a martial law state and not what we've come to believe is our justice system. On the other hand reading through the entirety of each story one comes to the conclusion that extra judiciary caution should be taken in these matters.
The grocer, Chen, did not single handedly apprehend the thief. He had his brother and an employee with him at the time. They physically assaulted the perpetrator, tied him up and stuffed him in the back of a van.
In the other two cases, the mentally ill individuals have been kept in medical wings of remand centers. They both need ongoing care, the Alzheimer's sufferer needs to be enrolled in some kind of at home care where a nurse or worker is present 24/7. He is being kept until that situation is resolved. The schizophrenic man likely needs to be placed back on his meds and the court appearance will likely stipulate that in its judgement. Either way, the ball was dropped by both the victim and the media for blowing up the stories.
In Chen's case there isn't any doubt he should be at least fined for the attack on the thief, since when do two wrongs make a right in civil society. The schizophrenic man's venture into Toronto could have been prevented had he been on his meds. The Alzheimer's patient had need of professional in-home care which a number of provinces provide for in their medical coverage.
One can't just take the juicy bits of a story and post it without at least giving the access to the whole back story as well.

Boris said...

Luc, I agree that something might have to be done about the Chen case and I agree with Morton's assessment.

However with respect to the two mental health cases, the first had committed no crime and had no intent to commit a crime, meds or no meds. Nor it is it illegal for schizophrenic people to travel to Toronto.

And the second is a case faced by many caregivers to the mentally ill. It gets physical at times and there's a heavy dose of discretion involved. Moreover, competent professional homecare is actually quite hard to come by. My grandmother for instance requires round the clock supervision and care in a secure place. She's a wanderer and a clever one at that and has progressed to the point where her care needs exceed the capacity of the facility she is in now. However, there are waiting lists, hidden costs, and residential or nursing facilities are created equal. It is actually quite a nightmare for my family to sort out. While care is technically provided for, this does not often translate well in practice. The medical wing of a remand centre is not the place for mentally ill in need of support.

Moreover, it is appalling that you suggest the victims, especially the mentally ill ones, "dropped the ball." Their mental states determine their behaviour and neither has done anything that might be construed as meeting the standard of, uh, mens rea.

Luc said...

Sorry about the "victim dropping the ball" comment. I actually meant the victims families' have dropped the ball to some extent. Either through inaction or ignoring the problem. The wife of the Alzheimer's patient is not to blame, but there must be other family members there that have avoided their due dilligence. Yes the remand center is not the right place, but in the absence of better options it is the only place where their safety is ensured.

double nickel said...

Oh for God's sake can't seriously believe that Alzheimer's patients who have impulse control problems belong in jails. Note that once this story hit the news, the WRHA has been forced into action on this one. Too bad it took a month.

Anonymous said...

"The grocer, Chen, did not single handedly apprehend the thief. He had his brother and an employee with him at the time. They physically assaulted the perpetrator, tied him up and stuffed him in the back of a van."

Hmm the thief admitted that only his index finger was injured during the altercation. Oh wait, he changed that to his thumb in court the other day.

Chen on the other hand received various bruises and have presented pictures to the court.

The Crown prosecutor's case against David is based on a part of the law on civil arrest. The bad guy isn't "freshly pursued". Its okay for the owner to arrest him if he just stole something. The thief came back to steal more stuff an hour later his first shoplifting (admitted in court), and the owner confronted him BEFORE he got a chance to take stuff.

Alison said...

An opposing pov on David Chen from ex security dudeSkippystalin re the legals argued out in the comments.

Notable that in the last few days there has been three different posts here around the subject of people acting on their own sense of justice in the absence of any hope that relevant authorities would do better - Semrau, schoolyard depanting backlash on a bully, and Chen.