Monday, May 25, 2009

Government proposes to fingerprint before charges

The federal government introduced legislation in Parliament to "modernize" criminal procedure in Canada. What it means, among other things, is that police will get the authority to fingerprint suspects even before charges are laid. Bill C-31 amends the Identification of Criminals Act (but oddly doesn't rename it the Identification of Criminals and People We Don't Have Enough Evidence to Charge Act).

From the DOJ:

Minister of Justice Moves to Modernize Criminal Law Procedure in Canada

OTTAWA, May 15, 2009 – The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today introduced in the House of Commons an Act to Amend the Criminal Code and other federal legislation, which will modernize criminal procedure and make the justice system more efficient and effective.

“Crime is constantly evolving in Canada so it is crucial that our criminal justice system evolves with it,” said Minister Nicholson. “With these amendments, our Government is taking action to help ensure the safety and security of our communities. It is the latest step in our continuing commitment to tackling crime.”

Proposed amendments in the legislation include:

Creating a new offence to help prevent individuals from fleeing a province or territory in order to avoid prosecution;

Streamlining the identification process in police stations by allowing the fingerprinting and photographing of persons in lawful custody who have not yet been charged or convicted of specific offences;

Improving the application procedure for search and seizure warrants by providing both peace and public officers with greater access to telewarrants;

Enhancing the expert witness process to allow parties more time to prepare their response to expert evidence in criminal matters;

Updating rules related to the use of “agents” (non-lawyers) in criminal proceedings, to provide the provinces with greater flexibility on this issue and ensuring better representation of accused individuals by agents; and,

Expanding the list of permitted sports covered under the current prize fighting provisions, and updating Canada’s pari-mutuel betting system.

“Our provincial and territorial partners have been instrumental in helping us identify and review a number of evolving issues in criminal law across Canada,” said Minister Nicholson. "This bill will increase the effectiveness of the justice system in a number of ways, including giving peace and public officers greater access to warrants relating to search and seizure, and helping address the issue of those who evade justice by travelling to other jurisdictions.”

Here's some media coverage:

Canada wants to fingerprint first -

OTTAWA, May 17 (UPI) -- The Canadian government wants to give police the power to fingerprint and photograph suspects who have been arrested and not formally charged.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced legislation Friday, The Toronto Globe and Mail reported. He said that Canada needs to bring its justice system up to date.

"Crime is constantly evolving in Canada so it is crucial that our criminal justice system evolves with it," Nicholson said in a statement.

The Conservative government described the plan as something that would help suspects as well as police by speeding up processing so that they might end up spending less time in police custody.

But one prominent defense lawyer in Toronto opposes the plan.

"Providing fingerprints is self-incrimination and the Constitution protects us from this. The line that is drawn is when you are charged. And to allow police to compel you to incriminate yourself before that moment is open to abuse," Clayton Ruby said.

No comments: