Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association says John Tory misrepresents role of prosecutors in his party's platform.



    TORONTO, Sept. 21 /CNW/ - The Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association which
represents the more than 870 front-line Crown attorneys in the province, today
expressed its disappointment with statements made by John Tory, the leader of
the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, during the leaders' television
debate and during the course of the election campaign.
    James Chaffe, the association's president, said that Mr. Tory is badly
misinformed regarding the role of Crown Attorneys and has been misleading in
his statements on what the party leader calls a "catch and release policy."
    "Crown attorneys are among the hardest working public servants in
Ontario. They work under tremendous workloads, often sacrificing health and
family, and more and more frequently, at personal risk to protect the public.
They must, as quasi-judicial officers of the court, decide the Crown position
on the interim release of an alleged offender on the basis of the evidence and
the law.
    "When the facts of a case indicate danger to the public they seek the
detention of the accused. We regularly seek the detention of the accused in
cases that involve violence and particularly when a gun is involved. To say
otherwise is false. We do not engage in 'catch and release.'
    "Regarding 'unconscionable plea bargains' Mr. Tory creates a
misconception that any plea bargain is unjust and that getting rid of plea
negotiations would create a safer community. Getting rid of plea negotiations
would cripple our justice system. Crowns do not negotiate pleas in a vacuum
regarding the state of the criminal justice system. When we negotiate a plea
our overriding concern is the protection of the public. To say otherwise is
false and insulting to Crown Attorneys."
    "It is completely unfair to blame Crowns in this manner. We work every
day to make the criminal justice system work. We expect a formal and public
apology."
    The OCCA expressed its concerns on September 18, 2007, in a letter to
Mr. Tory. They have received no response.
    The text of the letter was sent to John Tory and the leaders of the
Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party.

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                                       --------------------------------------
                                        Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association
                                                          Suite 1015, Box 30
                                                      180 Dundas Street West
                                                            Toronto, Ontario
                                                                     M5G 1Z8

    September 18, 2007

    Mr. John Tory                             Sent by fax to 519-941-3246
    Leader, Conservative Party of Ontario
    244 Broadway Ave
    Orangeville, ON
    L9W 1K5

    Mr. Dalton McGuinty                       Sent by fax to 613-736-7374
    Premier. Province of Ontario
    1795 Kilborn Ave
    Ottawa, ON
    K1H 6N1

    Mr. Howard Hampton                        Sent by fax to 807-274-3721
    Member, NDP - Kenora - Rainy River
    Suite 3 - 140 Fourth St W
    Fort Frances, ON
    P9A 3B8

    Mr. Frank deJong                          Sent by fax to 416-977-5476
    PO Box 50014
    224 Queen St W.
    Toronto, ON
    M5V 1Z6
    

    Dear Sirs:

    Re: Ontario's Crown Attorneys

    I am the President of the Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association (the
"OCAA") which represents the front-line Crown Attorneys in this province. On a
daily basis, in courts across this province, Crown Attorneys work long hours
to provide one of the most professional prosecution services in the country.
We are proud of the role we play in the administration of justice and the
manner in which we carry out our work in the public interest.
    I am writing to you to request a meeting with you as soon as possible.
The OCAA is pleased to see that justice issues are the subject of some debate
between candidates in this election. However the OCAA is of the view that
these issues are often vulnerable to distortion particularly in relation to
the role of Crown Attorneys.
    The OCAA is hopeful that there is some common ground in our respective
views on the critical issues that face our criminal justice system. In
particular, we are of the view that provincial governments need to view the
justice system as part of the core public infrastructure, one that should
attract core funding. In order for our criminal justice system to be effective
all parts must be properly funded: the police, the prosecutors, the defence
bar, the judiciary, probation and parole and corrections. Increasing funding
to only one part of the system has the potential of exacerbating problems in
the system as a whole. A prime example of this would be increasing the number
of police officers in the province without adding resources to the rest of the
system to support the greater number of criminal charges that more police
would produce.
    Unfortunately, the current debate surrounding justice issues has so far
been framed by statements that cause Crown Attorneys great concern. For
example, comments that suggest Crown Attorney education is little more than a
golf/spa junket on the public purse; that Crowns are part of unconscionable
plea bargains; that Crowns are part of a "catch and release" justice system.
These misconceptions are inaccurate and do not advance serious discourse on
the real challenges to our criminal justice system. They are comments that cry
out for the OCAA to come to the defense of Crown Attorneys' professional
reputations and public confidence of their role in the criminal justice system
- which we will do, albeit reluctantly, if necessary. The OCAA would prefer to
elevate the debate to address the real challenges facing our criminal justice
system.
    We would like to meet with you to discuss these matters at your earliest
convenience.

    Yours truly,

    James R. Chaffe
    President

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For further information:

For further information: or for an interview, James Chaffe can be
reached at: (416) 977-4517, (647) 300-4517

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ONTARIO CROWN ATTORNEYS' ASSOCIATION

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