EDITORIAL: System must be given the chance to work

As imperfect as our system is, for it to mean anything it must stand for a principle of justice, rather than a desire for vengeance.

It’s been 2½ years since South Surrey resident Jim Neiss was killed in a head-on collision as he drove to work along 16 Avenue.

Monday, the trial of the man accused of dangerous driving causing death in connection with the horrific collision got underway in Surrey Provincial Court.

Glen Theriault has pleaded not guilty to the charge against him, and there’s no doubt that over the course of this week, the judge will continue to hear many heart-wrenching details of the case.

Tempting as it may be for members of the public to render judgment of their own long before a verdict is pronounced – and many, no doubt, already have – it is paramount that one of the cornerstones of our legal system not be forgotten: innocence until guilt is proven.

Few would argue that there are those who knowingly take advantage of what can appear to be a system that favours offenders; grasping at every straw available until the inevitable – time behind bars – can no longer be avoided.

It does not help that sentences imposed often seem to fall short when compared to the level of harm done. Two years in jail for an act that cuts someone’s life short will never feel like enough to those who have to go on living without their loved one.

But we cannot forget that not everyone before the courts is playing the system. Even though investigation techniques have improved vastly over the course of a century, it is still possible for people to be charged with crimes for which they are not guilty.

Others may have made mistakes – sometimes grievous mistakes – which they will pay for, in some way, for the rest of their lives. In some instances, many of us, if we’re being entirely honest, might say “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

No one would suggest for a moment that the culpability of the accused not be explored, but they are also entitled to a fair hearing and a defense that ensures that any and all extenuating circumstances are known and understood.

As imperfect as our system is, for it to mean anything it must stand for a principle of justice, rather than a desire for vengeance.