11.02.2010 11:40 PM

Time to clean house at the Toronto Crown office, I’d say

Tories, Libs, NDP unite to protect thief catchers like David Chen (Harper-Thief-Catcher)


OTTAWA  – The plight of a thief-nabbing grocer from Toronto has the prime minister and opposition MPs tripping over themselves to change the law _ and maybe score some political points in the process.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday he has instructed the Justice Department to look at amending the Criminal Code to ensure what happened to David Chen doesn’t happen again.

Chen was charged with assault and forcible confinement after catching and tying up a shoplifter. He was acquitted Friday when a judge ruled it a citizen’s arrest.

“Now that the case has been ruled on, and common sense has prevailed, this government _ myself, the minister of justice _ have instructed the Department of Justice and instructed officials to look at possible changes to the Criminal Code to prevent incidents like Mr. Chen’s from occurring again,” Harper told the House of Commons.

The huge public outcry over Chen’s case _ especially in vote-rich Toronto _ caught the attention of the government and opposition parties.

Liberal MP Joe Volpe and New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, who represent’s Chen’s riding, have already both introduced private member’s bills to change to the law.

Their support for changes morphed into an auction-like zeal to pass legislation following Harper’s announcement.

Chow expressed hope that amendments can be whisked through Parliament by Christmas. Not to be outdone, Volpe said changes to the Criminal Code could be approved in a mere 48 hours with unanimous opposition support.

Only Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe was circumspect, saying he needs to see details of the proposed changes before deciding whether to support them.

Catching a thief in the act is currently a requirement of the law when making a citizen’s arrest. Chen captured the shoplifter one hour after he stole plants from the store. However, Justice Ramez Khawly called the one-hour issue a “red herring,” saying the thief had gone back for more loot.

Chow said she hopes the government will adopt the essence of her bill, which would have allowed for a “reasonable amount of time” in making a citizen’s arrest.


  1. Paul R Martin says:

    Who is responsible for appointing the crown’s? Is it the Provincial Government? Does the AG have the authority to remove crown’s? I do not see this as a partisan issue. It is of concern to all residents.

  2. Just curious, do you also support Kwang Soo Kim and believe he should not have been charged?

    • Namesake says:

      I’m doubting WK or most would support letting that merchant skate… that’s a quite different case, involving, it appears, chasing down a first-time shoplifter (of a single can of spam, which was clearly needed, unlike the Chen case where it was a serial offender taking a tray of potted plants) and beating her repeatedly with a bat or golf club or something (and what, not even arresting her, but letting her flee after the whooping, such that she died of internal bleeding later, which she probably wouldn’t have in custody.

      As I understand it, the new bill is just going to address the time frame for apprehension — it’ll no longer have to be “in the act” — but NOT relax the restrictions on not using disproportionate force like this. But it IS an instructive case to bear in mind when framing the new law.

  3. Tim Lemieux says:

    What do you think of the idea of courts being able to award costs to the defendant in criminal cases if the Crown fails to convict?

    Yes, David Chen and others like him walk away free, but how much of a financial beating have they taken going up against the limitless resources of the government? If it cost the Crown money to lose cases, maybe they’d think twice about frivolous prosecutions.

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