Sunday, 28 June 2009
Last November I was stopped by a policeman for speeding. Let me state for the record that while I was undoubtedly guilty, I was caught in a well known radar trap location at the bottom of a relatively steep hill and was only doing the limit when the officer jumped out from his hiding spot and flagged me down. Was I guilty of speeding? Yes. Where there ‘reasonable mitigating circumstances’? I will leave that to you to think about. I felt there were, or perhaps I should say that I felt a little leniency would have been appropriate.
Not wishing to impair my clean driving record I decided it would be worthwhile appealing to the Court. Last week I went to the Old City Hall (downtown Toronto), Courtroom E, along with about 50 others to see if I could at least get a reduced sentence, i.e. dropping the offence to 15km over the limit from what was shown on the ticket.
I had been advised to be at the court early to meet with the Prosecutor. The Prosecutor ‘holds court’ at a table just outside the courtroom doors. “Do you wish to negotiate a plea?” He asks. “Yes.” I say. With all the noise behind me in the corridor I can barely hear him but I hear the words “lesser” and “no points”. The very words I came to hear so I eagerly I agreed. He makes notes on his long list of names and offences and I enter the court.
My case was halfway down the list, all a myriad of traffic offenses. Nearly everyone was agreeing to plead guilty to a ‘lesser charge’. Of the twenty of so that went before me, all pleaded guilty to the exact same lesser charge. The Clerk read out the offense, “That on the 26th day of November, 2008, that at the corner of Bay and Richmond Streets, you did fail to proceed on a green light contrary to Item 405, Section 144, of the Highway Traffic Act.” “How do you plead?” I almost had it memorized. “Guilty” is the answer each time the question is asked.
The judge asks each guilty party if a $50 fine was reasonable. I was left wondering what would have happened if someone said, “No.” Reasonable! I though the judge was supposed to decide what was reasonable. [According to the Highway Traffic Act the set fine for this offence is $85 and no points.]
As I watched this happening each time I became more and more agitated. Twenty people had just pled guilty to the exact same offence, at the exact same intersection, on the same day, etc. Each one of those twenty people had just perjured themselves with the full knowledge and endorsement of the Court. Could I now, as a Christian, stand before the judge [and The Judge] and perjure myself?
By the grace of God I did not have to answer that question (although I still often think about it). The police officer who gave me the ticket did not appear in court and my case was summarily dismissed.
What I saw and experienced in Court that day weighs heavily on my mind as I wonder about the depths of contempt this country has for its justice system. Some might call it a matter of expediency but when our justice system condones, if not promotes, perjury on such a scale I am left thinking of Habakkuk’s plea to God, “The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” Habakkuk 1:5.
What kind of example are we giving to our children? Why do our youth have so little respect for The Law? Quite simply the leaders of this formerly great nation have abandoned their responsibilities and failed us. Justice has been indeed become perverted and this at the lowest levels of our judicial system. What hope is there?