Had the federal Conservatives not initiated change, Canadian charade-justice would have continued on its slippery slope to hell.
Proof came last week when Nadeem Jiwa was sentenced for the 2007 killing of Det. Robert Plunkett, of York Regional Police.
Headline readers might be forgiven for not realizing something was askew. The Globe and Mail's June 30 headline read Driver gets 12 years in officer's 2007 death. The problem is he didn't.
In fact, a reader had to make his way to the 10th paragraph before learning that upon receiving his on-paper sentence of 12 years, eight of them were shaved off, thanks to the inane two-for-one credit for time already served he was able to cash in.
If the offence were committed today that would not be possible because the government has kept its eye on the legal ball and the two-for-one credit he got would have been one-for-one.
Post-conviction, Jiwa still supposedly has four years to serve. But he won't. Early release provisions won't allow it.
Jiwa's a thief. He targeted vehicles solely for their airbags. He was caught and released on bail with the usual "strict" conditions. Among them, he was to live at his mom's, with a curfew. Instead he stole a car and continued to steal airbags.
Plunkett tried to arrest Jiwa inside a stolen car. Jiwa slammed the car into reverse, pulling the detective -- a husband and father of three -- and pinning him against a tree, where his aorta was severed.
As the detective drew his last breath, Jiwa ran like a rat.
The Criminal Code allows for a first-degree murder charge when someone kills a cop in the line of duty. Jiwa faced 25 years without parole.
But jury trials are a crapshoot, and this one decided on manslaughter. Why? Who knows? What goes on in the jury room, stays in the jury room. The law allows no outside discussion.
The two-for-one policy could have been custom-made for Jiwa.
Yes, he was in custody for four years. But don't forget that Jiwa was out on bail when he killed Plunkett. When he was processed for the death of Plunkett, he was denied more bail because he was an obvious risk. That's why he was in custody. It was his own doing. Why should he be rewarded with a two-for-one for that?
The other idiocy is that it is only the guilty who get this consideration. Had he been found not guilty, there would have been no reward, no compensation for time served. But because he was guilty of killing the cop, it was like matching cherries in a slot machine. The time he was held in custody (because of the risk he posed) instantly doubled and two-thirds of his sentence was eliminated, just like that.
Few cops dwell on the ultimate sacrifice but most hope that in such circumstances, justice would prevail.
Justice has not been served and the sentence is an insult to every cop in Canada, more so to Plunkett's family.
When someone who has been caught in a criminal act kills a cop, what clearer message of justice is there than a lengthy penitentiary term?
Surely not this. Not community service nor a program.
For years, unknown victims with untold stories have been subjected to this system of nonsense. The high-profile nature of Plunkett's death makes clear how extensive the irrationality was.
Bemoan the costs of these Conservative initiatives if you must, feign charity and wring your hands over the hard-line messages that are part of the deal. But the status quo just wasn't cutting it. That's why gassing two-for-one credits had the united support of provincial premiers and territorial leaders. That's part of why Canadians returned the Conservatives to Ottawa with a majority that rendered the Liberals down to a stew of irrelevance.
That didn't stop Jiwa and his lawyer from suggesting the sentence was harsh. (They had been hoping for time served.)
A couple of years, post-conviction, isn't that long. Dead is forever.
Eventually all those older cases will wrap up and the two-for-one hangover will cease, hopefully forever.
Maybe it's that hope that keeps cops going. If this had been precedent-setting instead of the tail end of lousy policy, one couldn't blame them if they all just threw up their hands and walked away.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, another York Regional Police officer was buried. Like Robert Plunkett, Const. Garrett Styles was dealing with the driver of a vehicle. The 15-year-old unlicensed driver allegedly raced off, dragging the officer to his death. The youth stands charged with first-degree murder.
Robert Marshall is a retired
Winnipeg police detective.