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Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Grand Idea - Bringing Back the Grand Jury

The Man from Lanark wants to bring back an old idea:

Ontario's public agencies and institutions are inadequately monitored, says Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier, who Monday proposed reintroducing grand juries to the province.

Hillier says grand juries, abolished in Ontario more than three decades ago, would add populist oversight to those bodies that are now monitored by a patchwork of offices.


They would also make it easier for individuals to pursue private prosecutions.

While Grand Juries are a fixture of American jurisprudence, they were abolished in Ontario in 1976. Dating back to the reign of Henry II, the purpose of the Grand Jury was to screen charges brought by private individuals and government officials, seeing if such charges should be sent for trial. Empowered to hear witnesses and conduct investigations, they were seen by many modern jurists as outdated. Born in the primitive and slow moving world of late medieval England, they became legal encumbrances to efficient justice. Today crown prosecutors present charges to a magistrate, who decides if they can be sent for trial, during the committal procedure

American Grand Juries approve the overwhelming majority of cases brought before them by prosecutors. Since the procedural standards are very low compared to a full trial, some have complained that, at least in serious criminal matters, the Grand Jury serves as little more than a prosecutorial rubber stamp.

Randy Hiller's call for a return of the Grand Jury looks to be focused more on improving governmental oversight, than changing the modern committal process:

Grand juries serve three fundamental purposes, empowering citizens to be full participants in the political/legal system, providing scrutiny & oversight for public bodies & institutions through public investigations, and facilitating the laying of private information. Presently, the Attorney Generals Office is the gatekeeper to the halls of justice. Grand juries empower citizens to defend our common laws, public institutions, and subordinate bodies of the legislature. 

The imagined approach, it seems, is that private citizens can press charges against public officials, which would be reviewed by a Grand Jury, rather than an official from the Attorney-General's office. This was a common function of the Grand Jury system in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using its investigative powers, including calling witnesses, it could determine whether charges should be brought to trial, circumventing the network of government appointed - and financed - oversight bodies.

While inefficient for routine criminal matters, a revived Grand Jury system would give a powerful tool to ordinary citizens to prosecute malfeasance and incompetence by public officials. A tool that was sorely needed during Adscam, where we had to wait for the Martin government to call an official inquiry, and that would prove invaluable in investigating the conduct of the OPP in Caledonia.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 28, 2010 | Permalink


Seems like a decent idea, but considering who this comes from, I suspect Tristan Emanuel is behind it. And if that Christo-fascist is behind it, I don't trust it.

I'll wait for more details

Posted by: Mike | 2010-10-28 8:00:19 AM

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