A Tale of Two Obstructions

Two cases that strike to the core of our criminal justice system.

In one, a man seeks to protect to his girlfriend from liability for the tragic beating death of her young daughter. He delivers conflicting stories throughout the course of the investigation ultimately stunning the courtroom by claiming responsibility for the injuries himself in a dramatic twist at the woman’s trial. She is nonetheless convicted of manslaughter and police proceed to charge him with giving contradictory evidence.  He admits his crime, pleads guilty, and is sentenced to three years in prison.

In the other, a group of five drug squad police officers are convicted of lying under oath, attempting to obstruct justice and falsifying notes to retroactively justify a warrantless search of a suspected drug dealer. The five officers took this planned and deliberate action together, violating the tremendous trust and authority granted to those who wear a badge. They never accepted responsibility for their actions fighting the case (as is their right) at every step of the proceedings through myriad court hearings and appeals for nearly fifteen years. They are each sentenced to forty-five days of house arrest.

The actions of all of these offenders threatened to undermine the faith the public places in our admittedly flawed system of justice.  But a comparison of the two sentences meted out exposes a far deeper rot.  I cannot for the life of me reconcile how one case warrants a term in the penitentiary while the other results in a few short weeks spent at home.


Edward Prutschi

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About the author

I am one of the senior partners at Bytensky Shikhman, a criminal litigation firm in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In my 25+ year career, I have conducted numerous trials and appeals before all levels of Court in Ontario, defending just about every type of charge in our criminal law. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy at Osgoode Hall Law School and currently the Treasurer of the Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario. I am also an Adjunct Professor for Trial Advocacy at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University and a regular lecturer and placement supervisor for Osgoode's Intensive Programme in Criminal Law.
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