Police chief supports tougher kidnapping sentence
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012 6:06PM EDT
Woodstock Police Chief Rod Freeman was in Ottawa on Thursday to support a proposed bill that would impose a minimum five-year sentence on kidnappers.
The move comes just days after Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life behind bars in the kidnapping and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford in Woodstock.
But the move is drawing criticism from the legal community, with some lawyers calling it a slap in the face to judges.
Currently there's no minimum sentence for a stranger who kidnaps a child under the age of 16, unless a firearm is used or organized crime is involved.
But Freeman says that should be changed "To prevent tragedies such as Victoria's, a fate that no child should have to endure."
Freeman was speaking in support of Private Member's Bill C-299, put forward by Conservative BC MP David Wilks.
The bill, which would impose a minimum five-year sentence, was proposed in November 2011 and is being closely watched in the wake of the Victoria Stafford verdict.
Mary Ballantyne of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies says "Anything that can assist the community in making sure that children are kept safe is certainly something that would be of interest to us."
But some lawyers don't like the idea, saying takes the decision-making out of the hands of judges.
Kitchener defence lawyer Hal Mattson says "It's a real slap in the face to judges, to say you're not doing your job…If it was a real abduction of a child under 16, they're looking at a heavy sentence anyway."
But Freeman says "People are having some doubts about the criminal justice system and its effectiveness."
The bill had its second reading in February and is currently being reviewed by a Justice and Human Rights Committee.