Michael Spratt

Michael Spratt

Michael Spratt is a partner at the Ottawa criminal law firm Abergel Goldstein & Partners. He has served as a director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and vice president, of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa. He is an award-winning blogger and podcaster who frequently appears as an expert witness before the House of Commons and the Senate. Check out his continuing work at michaelspratt.com and on Twitter @mspratt.

Column: The Woodshed
Dislike of Khadr settlement does not entitle critics to disregard law or factsOmar Khadr is a polarizing figure. To some, Khadr is a child soldier who was brainwashed by his parents and then abandoned by the Canadian government in the notorious and illegal Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. To others, Khadr is a terrorist deserving of no sympathy.
 
The Ghomeshi rules: Bill C-51 creates unprecedented case of reverse disclosureEarlier this month, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced legislation to modernize the Criminal Code. The new legislation, Bill C-51, would repeal sections of the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional, remove outdated offences and bring written sexual assault law up to speed with court decisions.
 
Proposed new jails are proof Canada is not upholding UN normsIt has been two years since the United Nations adopted crucial revisions to the international standards on the treatment of prisoners. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) forcefully called on member states to respect prisoners’ inherent dignity, allow access to medical care, protect vulnerable inmates and ensure access to legal representation.
Broken pot promise would send Liberals’ credibility up in smokeThe rollout of the Liberals’ Cannabis Act was a grim affair. It seems that never more grudgingly has a government followed through on an election promise.
Liberals pick only low-hanging justice fruit with Bill C-39This month, the Liberal government took swift and decisive action against zombie laws found lurking in Canada’s Criminal Code. Except their actions were not swift, decisive or principled but instead a half-hearted grab at only the lowest hanging justice fruit.
 
Conservatives use fear-based politicking to undermine our justice systemThis month Manitoba’s Criminal Review Board granted Will Baker an absolute discharge – and then the theatrical outrage hit the political fan, because Baker is better known as Vince Li, the man responsible for a gruesome and widely publicised 2008 killing on a Greyhound bus.
 
Why plea bargains can be a deal with the devilThe plea bargain is a deal with the devil — at least according to many members of the public. The public may be right, but the real question is: Just who is the devil in the plea bargain equation?
Real change in court system must start with Crown attorneysThere is a problem with delays in our justice system. This is true. It is also true that the criminal justice system is an insatiable beast — a black hole that will endlessly devour money and resources.
Trudeau’s government should act on promises of justice reformLast month at the 44th annual Criminal Lawyers’ Association conference, Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould delivered the prestigious Spokina lecture. She said a lot of words. She told the audience the Liberal government was intent on moving forward with restorative justice initiatives, reducing the over-incarceration of indigenous people and ensuring Canada’s criminal laws are in compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 
Defence counsel hit hardest by antiquated court processesThe wheels of our criminal justice system move slowly — and the wheels should move slowly. Justice must be dispensed carefully and deliberately since mistakes can destroy lives. But a deliberative process is too often a convenient and lazy excuse for dependence on antiquated processes — our justice system is stuck in the 1980s. If you don’t believe me, let me send you a fax of my casebook.
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