Dangerous goods
Why the court labels some offenders dangerous

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet ( May 29/00) - The road to being named a dangerous offender is an extremely violent one.

The North is no different from the rest of the country when it comes to identifying dangerous offenders.

Those with lengthy criminal records of repeated violent offences are red-flagged by the RCMP's Canadian Policing Intelligence Centre (CPIC) data base.

Once identified, the RCMP will ask the Crown's office to review the person's record and determine if he or she is a dangerous offender candidate.

If so, a dangerous offender application is filed.

Pam Clarke is Justice Canada's regional director for the Nunavut Regional Office of Justice.

Clarke says there are also times during sentencing, a judge will note a person's record as being severe enough to warrant the Crown looking at the dangerous offenders provisions.

"The dangerous offender application is not a trial per say," says Clarke.

"It actually takes place at the sentencing portion of a person's trial after they have been convicted of a substantive offense.

"Instead of your usual sentencing, the Crown makes an application to have that person declared a dangerous offender.

"So, it's really more of a hearing, although the burden remains on the Crown to prove the person is a dangerous offender."

The application also differs from a standard trial in that the Crown is not restricted to calling evidence solely to the charge before the court.

In a recent Iqaluit application, the Crown called a number of people to testify they had been raped by the defendant, or suffered other personal injuries, even though the man had never been charged with those offences.

"Sometimes a woman is too afraid to tell the police what happened to her, but, at this point, is willing to come forward and testify to establish a pattern of aggressive behaviour.

"This is an important aspect because the Crown must show the person's behaviour inflicted severe psychological damage on the victim."

To be declared a dangerous offender, one must be convicted of a serious personal injury offence, have a pattern of aggressive behaviour, or have behaved so brutally as to compel the conclusion that future behaviour is unlikely to be inhibited by natural standards.

Many sexual assault offences fall under the serious personal injury classification.

Those declared dangerous offenders receive indeterminate sentences.

Although never eligible for parole, their dangerous offender status is reviewed periodically.

Nunavut has had two dangerous offenders declared since division, one from the Kivalliq Region and one from the Baffin.

Clarke says with only one year of statistical data, it would be unfair to compare Nunavut to the south.

"To compare the North to the south in general, I can tell you, based solely on my own personal experience, a lot of violent crimes are taking place in the North and a lot of them are against women.

"They seem to be disproportionate to what I've seen in the south, but that's my gut reaction. It's not based on statistics."

Clarke says to ask why this is happening is to, essentially, ask what causes crime.

"The root causes of crime are often poverty, substance abuse issues, those types of things, and we have a lot of that in the North."