In last week's decision of R. v. Fearon, Justice Cromwell (for the majority) wrote "armed robbery ... a crime that has become depressingly routine." This is an odd observation to see from the highest court in the country given that crime rates have been falling across the board for decades.

According to the RCMP, armed robbery rates are down 50% since the bad old days of 2000. Statscan figures show that between 1999 and 2008, the overall rate of robbery with a firearm decreased by about 40% in Canada. The rate of armed robbery has decreased by about 50% since 1994 (table 16, compare with other Statscan table).

Homicide rates are at a 50 year low. Theft is down about 50% since the start of the 90s.

If crime rates (particularly, armed robbery) are falling, why would the Supreme Court write that armed robbery has "become depressingly routine"? I can't find any reference in the factums filed by the parties to an increasing crime rate. Justice Cromwell seems to have taken judicial notice of this (incorrect) statistic. Perhaps he did so because Justice Cromwell is like most Canadians, who believe that crime rates are increasing or static. Around 5% of Canadians surveyed by Statscan in 2011 thought that crime was decreasing in their neighbourhood. To put that statistic in even greater perspective, the majority of those surveyed felt that their neighbourhood was safer than average.

Why does it matter that the Supreme Court doesn't know that crime rates are falling? Fearon is a decision that gives expanded powers to the police, presumably in part because the Justices thought that police need more tools to tackle the scourge of crime they wrongly believe exists.

How many other Supreme Court cases have been coloured by Justices' own "common sense" knowledge that is at odds with the facts?