Abbotsford mayor calls for justice reform to combat gang war

Abbotsford’s mayor wants to see sweeping changes to the criminal justice system to help police get the region’s gang war under control.

Henry Braun says B.C.'s charge approval process needs to be overhauled to protect public safety

Emergency personnel remove the body of the victim of a targeted shooting Oct. 18 from a crime scene in Abbotsford. (Shane McKichan/CBC)

Abbotsford's mayor wants to see sweeping changes to the criminal justice system to help police get the region's gang war under control.

Henry Braun — who was speaking Wednesday evening at an anti-gang forum — says it's frustrating to watch officers run into legal roadblocks and procedural delays as they build cases against violent criminals.

"What we lack is a mechanism that functions to keep the community safe from high-risk repeat offenders who often skirt the system," he said.

"Without that balance, we find ourselves struggling to protect our communities."

Braun — who also chairs the city's police board — is calling for a regional task force on justice reform.

Charge approval

Braun's biggest problem with the legal system is B.C.'s charge approval process, which requires police to recommend charges to the Crown's office.

Under the current rules, the Crown will only approve charges if there is a substantial likelihood of conviction.

"That word substantial is a high bar," Braun said. "I would like to see that word substantial changed to reasonable."

Braun says police should be able to lay charges themselves to speed up the legal process when they're dealing with known gangsters.

"I'm not talking about guys who are doing break and enters, although that's not acceptable either," Braun said. "I'm talking about guys with guns who are killing each other."

He also wants to make it easier for police to obtain search warrants in cases that involves dangerous individuals.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun wants to overhaul B.C.'s charge approval system. (CBC)

Victoria and Ottawa

Braun says he has already raised his concerns with B.C. Justice Minister Mike Farnworth and federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair.

"They didn't tell me I was crazy," he said.

"They didn't agree with me either, but I think we need to continue these discussions as we move forward, because cities can't change those laws."

The community groups, Wake Up Surrey and Wake Up Abbotsford, which organized the forum, both say they will help Braun with his lobbying efforts.