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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 19, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 36-THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Wednesday, June 19, 1974 Lawyers and prosecutors claimed negligent in drug cases By JEFF CARRUTHEKS Herald Ottawa Bureau OTTAWA Many federal Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers regularly handling drug cases are being negligent in their duty, in the opinion of a senior official of the Canadian Bar Association. Lawyers on both sides of the courtroom in most major Canadian cities are often failing to ask for special absolute or conditional discharges in all applicable drug cases, according to a recent nationwide survey of the practises of Crown prosecutors in cannabis cases. And Ken Kawcus, a Vancouver lawyer and national chairman of the Canadian Bar Association's criminal law section overlooking criminal cases, said yesterday that both Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers who don't ask tor the special discharge provisions, instead of conviction, in all applicable cases are being negligent in their duty. According to a mid-1972 Justice Department directive to all federal Crown prosecutors, absolute or conditional discharges are supposed to be routinely available to all persons charged with simple possession of cannabis, if it is the first offenc-' and there are no other concurrent charges. The directive instructs all federal Crown prosecutors to urge the courts to apply absolute or conditional discharges, except in exceptional circumstances. And it also said that at the discretion of the Crown prose- cutors, discharges could also be urged even in cases of second or subsequent charges or where there were concurrent charges. A recent survey of the current practises of federal Crown prosecutors in five major Canadian cities, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto. Winnipeg and Vancouver, where the large majority of drug cases are handled revealed that only Crown prose- cutors in Montreal are following the 1972 justice department directive and applying to the courts for discharges in all ap- plicable cases. In the cities other than Montreal, the general practice now is to leave the responsibility of asking the court for a discharge to the defence lawyer. According to senior Crown prosecutors interviewed in all of the cities, the Crown would normally not oppose any application for discharges by defence counsel. But the survey also revealed that in Vancouver, the city with the largest number of drug cases, the defence lawyers who regularly handle drag cases aren't asking for the discharge provisions any more. The problem is also believed to be occurring on a smaller scale in other cities. R. G. Wismer. federal lawyer in charge of the criminal law section in Vancouver, admitted in an interview that federal Crown prosecutors there rarely, if ever, ask the court to apply the discharge provision. "It's kind of old hat now no one" including the old-timer defence lawyers "really bothers" asking anymore, he said. He noted that if he were a defence lawyer, he would ask for it in most cannabis possession cases and would not be opposed by the Crown in most cases. Vancouver Lawyer Ken Fawcus, who said he didn't handle many drug cases himself, expressed surprise that neither Crown counsel nor defence counsel are asking for dis- charges for many cannabis possession cases. He added that Mr. Wismer "should know the situation, since he's in court every day." Mr. Fawcus said that defence lawyers who don't ask for discharges, instead of convictions, in all applicable cases are not serving their clients properly. ummer learance SHORT-SLEEVE DRESS SHIRTS. From the mills of Canada's most famous makers comes a glorious collec- tion of short-sleeved coloured stripes, geo- metrics light or dark shades. All sizes. SPORT COATS. A great buy! Choose from a large selection of year-round weights, all with the latest de- velopments in style. Bold lapels, deep vents, patch pockets, stitching detail... choose the right degree of fashion for you. Reg. to SLACKS. Check Tip Top's slack racks tor ihe best buys in slacks Poly- ester knits, and polyester and wool blends in mid weight cloths Checks and plaids in a wide assort- merit of colours. Reg. to S25.00 SHORT SLEEVE SPORTSHIRTS Cr-ol casual classics.1 Sporl shirts and knits m the summer's most conrforl- ablc s'v'cs Colouflul slnpos. pat- terns and plains A tremendous value but hurry in 1or best suleclion! Open