Dear Attorney General,
We write to express our deep concern about comments made and reported on Global News on November 23, 2023 regarding sentencing on a criminal matter from October 2023.
While we understand that news reports are selectively edited and you may have made additional remarks, what was reported – along with your Twitter post – left the impression that you think the sentence is not appropriate, that the sentencing judge is not sufficiently aware of trauma-informed practice, and that the training and education for all judges may be lacking in this area. These comments, made with the weight of your office, risk undermining the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system.
As Attorney General with responsibility for the BC Prosecution Service, you had an opportunity to educate the public about the process for criminal matters. This includes the use of pre-sentence reports and victim impact statements, the roles of Crown and defence counsel in presenting information and persuading the judge, the role of the judge in balancing sentencing factors to reach a decision, and the right of appeal if either party believes an error was made. Your comments in media failed to address any of these factors. We are concerned that commenting on a specific case in this manner harms the administration of justice in the province. We urge you to issue a statement addressing these concerns.
As you know, all judges in the Provincial Court participate in multiple educational opportunities throughout the year. The recent Annual Report of the Provincial Court explains that this education includes the impact of trauma on litigants. The inference that judges are not properly trained to understand a trauma-informed approach was therefore incorrect. Furthermore, implying that government can direct the judicial branch on education undermines its independence.
All actors in our legal system in British Columbia play a role in maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system and upholding the independence of the judiciary. Recent reporting on the criminal justice system and the role of judges demonstrates misunderstanding by government and some members of the public. As Attorney General, you have more opportunities than most to help people understand these issues.
We hope you will approach future opportunities through this lens.