A STRONG LEGAL SYSTEM
Every strong society has a strong legal system within it to regulate justice and to punish and deter crime. Why is a legal system necessary? There are at least three answers to this question. The first answer to this question is that human nature is inherently evil and fallen, and that men and women will naturally destroy society, and individual people within society, if they are not restrained. Society would slip into anarchy very quickly if people were allowed to fulfil all of the evil desires of their hearts. The second answer to this question is that governments alone are not capable of restraining men and women from destroying society. The amount of work involved in maintaining order is colossal and a legal system, separate from government, is needed to help with this problem. The third answer to this question is that government, itself, needs to be kept in check by another institution outside of itself. Governments and legal systems should balance the power of each other and should be able to step in and correct each other when power is being abused.
What is the role of the legal system within society? The legal system is to uphold basic human rights and help produce stability, peace and order within society. When basic human rights are violated, criminal activity must be forcibly stopped and criminals must be made to face penalties. Criminals must cooperate and should, in most cases, be processed through rehabilitation efforts before they can be again trusted with the privilege of free life within society. These are some of the responsibilities and work of the legal system.
The legal system consists of three components, the policing or law enforcement system, the court system and the prison, or corrections, system. All three systems work together towards insuring justice and squeezing crime out of society. The first of these components is policing and, in a strong society, police are given the power to intervene in conflict situations and arrest citizens when they are involved in crime. Policing then turns suspects and criminals over to the court system. Police should be sufficiently educated, adequately armed and departments should be staffed by the numbers necessary to handle the threats of an increasingly sophisticated world of underground crime, as well as all other crimes.
The court system is the place where cases are brought to trial and the guilt or innocence of the accused is assessed. Accused persons who are innocent should be defended and acquitted of the charges against them. Accused persons who are guilty should be punished. This is very basic but, unfortunately, the process of justice is sometimes thwarted and innocent men and women are punished for things that they should never have been charged with and guilty persons are acquitted, or under penalized, for terrible crimes. This is the result of corruption of the court system itself. Prosecutors, defence lawyers and judges, sometimes, have an agenda of judicial activism which asserts the wishes of minority groups over the justice needs of the common citizenry. When individuals who stand for truth and righteousness have legal proceedings launched and carried out against them for doing so, it is time to reform the legal system. All legal systems should have built within themselves a process for reform.
One process for reforming courts would be to make them accountable to the public. In a democratic society we vote politicians into office and out of office. This is considered a basic right and duty within democracies. This keeps governments accountable to the people. Why can't our court systems be organized the same way? I believe that if citizens were given the right to vote judges out of office, we would see less radical and brash rulings from such officials. If judges wanted to keep their jobs, they would fear trampling over the rights of citizens. However, in a system where judges cannot be removed from office by the people, judges sometimes use their power to defend their own prejudices.
The last aspect to a legal system is the corrections, or prison, system. This system, too, must be well-funded and well-staffed for handling the large numbers of criminals who are sent to it by the courts. Governments should build as many prisons as a society needs to contain and restrain crime.
What are some areas of activity which a legal system should treat most seriously? One area is that of religious freedom. Of all the freedoms that we enjoy, the most fragile and the most attacked freedom is religious freedom. Christians must be given the freedom to worship God and to learn, live and spread the truth of their faith, unmolested by governments and courts. Courts should recognize the authority of the Church in spiritual matters and should not coerce the Church into acting against the revealed will of God. This is justice at its most fundamental level. Sadly, this is where justice is sometimes denied.
Another area which a legal system must take very seriously is that of violent crime. By this, I mean physical violence perpetrated towards victims. Physical violent assault causes terrible, and often lasting, pain for victims. It must be punished with heavy penalties if offenders are ever to take it seriously. Unfortunately, there have been many times when light penalties have been assigned for violent crimes. Criminals are sometimes released into society prematurely. Those criminals may become repeat-offenders and there is a trail of innocent victims who suffer, year in and year out, over their losses. This type of failure of the legal system angers the public the most. The public pays taxes so that such violent repeat-offenders would be locked up and kept from injuring society with their violent crimes. Violence needs to be defined. By it, I mean physical violence. Sometimes, the word ''violence'' is stretched to cover mental or emotional violence or it is used to control hate-speech. This is problematic. Why? It is a problem because this kind of violence is too hard to define correctly (in a legal way) and is open to interpretation. What is hate-speech to one person is fair comment to another. Who has the right to be a judge of such matters, except God? This type of legal charge opens the door for the manipulating of the courts. One person expresses his or her honest, heart-felt convictions and another person, who disagrees with them, all of a sudden feels hurt. Who is wrong in this situation? Is it the person expressing their opinion or is it the one being challenged by a position different from their own? Courts should not be involved in these types of quarrels. Why not? Should hate not be stopped? What is viewed as hate is not necessarily hatred at all. Also, hatred may be directed towards an idea without directing it towards a person. Unless speech is inciting physical violence, it should not be judged by courts. It would be wonderful if the courts could bring an end to all inappropriate hatred in the world, but it is naive to think that it can. The courts aren't doing enough to control the more serious crimes of physical violence within society. This is where they should direct their energies and leave the murky issue of hate-speech to be resolved outside of the court system.
Another area of concern which courts should take very seriously is drug crime. Illegal drugs do so much damage to people, and thus to society, that serious penalties must be handed out to those participating in this type of crime. Participating in drug crime includes the possession of illegal drugs, the trafficking of illegal drugs and the producing and exporting of such substances. Illegal drugs are substances that the government has banned from general consumption because they are toxic and highly addictive, destroying a person's health over time.
While serious crime should have serious consequences, not all crime is of the same seriousness and even the committing of offences is not always done with the same level of intent. Consequently, there should be some range of penalties for the same offences, depending on particular intent. Factors such as degree of pre-meditation, previous criminal record, knowledge of the law or degree of participation in a criminal activity, all must be taken into consideration and, in some cases, a more lenient consequence is appropriate.
In Canada, we have seen a tightening-up of the legal system under Conservative Party initiatives. In 2008, the Senate passed the Conservative governments anti-crime bill which mandated tougher mandatory sentences for gun-related crime, strengthened provisions against drinking and driving and raised the age of consent for children from fourteen to sixteen years. It also relaxed the requirements that must be met before repeat-offenders can be classified as dangerous offenders and incarcerated indefinitely.
''Progress made by the Government of Canada since Parliament returned on January 31, (2011) includes:
passage of the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act which ensures first degree murderers serve their life sentence instead of being released early on parole;
announcement of new RCMP technology that reduces wait times for individuals including teachers and hockey coaches seeking police checks to work with children;
passage of the Justice of Victims of Terrorism Act through the Senate;
launch of consultations that would require convicted criminals to pay the full cost of applying for a pardon and ensure the pardons system remains financially sustainable;
passage of the Abolition of Early Parole Act through the House of Commons that would ensure convicted fraudsters and drug traffickers are no longer released automatically into our communities after only serving one-sixth of their sentence
. yesterday’s announcement of almost $2 million in support for crime prevention programs in New Brunswick.'' 1
Changes such as these are exactly what Canada has needed and, hopefully, the government is going to continue strengthening the legal system in this way.
Strong legal systems and strong societies go hand in hand. Legal systems will never fully restrain evil within society. However, there is much good that they can do in protecting society and protecting individual's rights if they follow a path of truth and justice. Through effective policing, court systems and corrections systems, much peace and order can be maintained over society. Court systems should be organized so that they are reformable and accountable to the people. Basic freedoms, such as religious freedom and freedom from physical violence and drug crime, must be upheld and judicial activism should be forced out of the system. Any legal system needs certain flexibilities, but a general tightening-up of the legal system, regarding legitimate abuses, benefits society in the long run.
1. ''Public Safety Minister Toews highlights the Harper Government's comprehensive efforts to combat crime.'' Publicsafety.gc.ca
By quoting this article I am not claiming that the Canadian Government endorses this website.
Griffiths, Curt T. and Simon N. Verdun-Jones. Canadian Criminal Justice. 2nd Ed.
Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, Canada, 1994.
Taylor, Hebden E. L. The Christian Philosophy Of Law, Politics And The State. Nutly: The Craig Press, 1966.
''Criminal Law'' http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com
''Public Safety Minister Toews highlights the Harper Government's comprehensive efforts to combat crime.'' Publicsafety.gc.ca