November 27, 2023

In a recent media interview, BC’s Attorney General Niki Sharma, KC made comments suggesting judicial training may not be sufficient following the sentencing of a BC man convicted of voyeurism.

The Law Society of BC is concerned that Sharma’s implied criticism of the judge’s decision interferes with the independence of the judiciary and the Rule of Law, and may undermine public confidence in the judicial system and the courts.

“We recognize there will be different views on whether the sentence passed was appropriate,” says Christopher McPherson, KC, President of the Law Society. “However, it is our opinion that judges can expect the Attorney General to defend the role of the justice system rather than imply that judges are not sufficiently trained and have thereby imposed an inappropriate sentence.”

The Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia provides that judges are entitled to receive the support of the legal profession against unjust criticism and complaint. Trust in the process of the courts requires the confidence that judges can resolve disputes fairly and impartially.

Governments and their officials have a crucial part to play in maintaining this confidence, which is fundamental to a democratic and well-functioning society.

We have noticed in recent months that government officials, including Premier David Eby, KC, have made comments on justice system matters that tread on interference with the administration of justice by politicizing justice issues. Examples include comments on bail reform and an announced review following a stabbing in Chinatown.

The government has an important obligation to ensure public safety and we agree that critiques and reviews are key to make improvements. However, criticism by government officials about individual cases, or critiques about judicial decisions without reference to the systemic and legal constraints placed on decision makers, undermines the public’s confidence in the administration of justice. The government must be mindful of this when providing comments on justice-related matters.