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Putting people in prison for disobeying COVID-19-related rules counterproductive: lawyer

Last Updated Mar 27, 2020 at 1:04 am PST

(CP file photo)

Putting more people in custody during a pandemic is counterproductive: defence lawyer

Hefty fines or house arrest will protect vulnerable prisoners, limit crowding

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While a fine for not obeying the rules put forth by public health officers in regards to COVID-19 and social distancing is a reality, one criminal defense lawyer thinks that can be a slippery slope.

Defence lawyer Sarah Leamon is based out of downtown Vancouver and feels putting more people in custody during a pandemic is like opening a can of worms.

“It may be counterproductive to controlling any viral outbreak that could occur.” Leamon says.

RELATED: ‘Potentially very deadly’: Advocates call for release of vulnerable women from Canada’s prisons amid COVID-19

Leamon suggests that people who are caught should be subject to strict conditions or that charges be delayed until this all clears up, even if it creates a backlog for the courts.

“People could be put on strict court conditions for house arrest, which is one alternative to putting people into custody, or else we could issue charges that could be heard well into the future after this pandemic is over.” Leamon adds.

Of course hitting people in the wallet is one way of sending the message, but that may not be enough.

“We need to make sure that people understand that this is serious. These are rules, not just merely suggestions. Unfortunately there are people in our communities who just aren’t grasping that.”