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 is currently the vice president, of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa. He is an award-winning blogger who frequently appears as an expert witness before the House of Commons and the Senate. Check him out at michaelspratt.com and on Twitter @mspratt.

Column: The Woodshed
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.
Monday, 19 September 2016 09:00

Cameras in court: Be careful what you wish for

Cameras in court: Be careful what you wish forSome would have you believe that trials in Canada are secret affairs that take place behind locked doors in deserted courtrooms and that the Star Chamber is alive and well in Canada. They would have you think that evidence is concealed from the public, and judges are black boxes — their decisions inaccessible and undecipherable to the larger community, and only the bright light of television cameras and public broadcasts will cure these ills.
Monday, 15 August 2016 09:00

The thin blue line: police accountability

The thin blue line: police accountabilityOn July 24, the Ottawa police were called to a coffee shop to respond to a disturbance. There were reports that a man had attempted to grope a woman. By the time the police arrived at the coffee shop, the man had left. The police pursued. Minutes later, 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi was dead.
Abdi was not carrying any weapons. Only the police were armed. 
It’s been 25 years since Askov but little has changedIn 1991, more than 47,000 criminal charges were thrown out of Ontario courts. Why? Because of systemic disregard for the Charter-protected right to a trial within a reasonable time and a man named Elijah Anton Askov.
Monday, 20 June 2016 09:00

The war on drugs blindly marches on

The war on drugs blindly marches onAfter 10 years of tough-on-crime ideology, Canada is back with a new and progressive Liberal government. At least this is the narrative.
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