EDITORIALS

And Justice for All- Or Maybe Not

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HURTS 025 alteredI’m hoping I wasn’t the only person sickened by a Mike McIntyre crime story published in the Winnipeg Free Press this morning.

It’s hard not to be concerned when you catch a headline that reads, “Convicted Winnipeg rapist won’t go to jail.”

The story is just another example of the many depraved, horrific stories you can read if you follow true crime accounts in the Keystone Province.

It was a sexually sadistic domestic assault that featured a thirty-five (35) year old Sagkeeng First Nations man who burned his spouse’s tailbone with a lighter, tied her to a crib, with their baby inside no less, and then proceeded to rape her.

Chronology:

The case featured many twists and turns as it recently wound it’s way through the Justice system…

  • 2004 – The attack occurs on Sagkeeng First Nation
  • 2010 – The case reported to Police
  • 2012 – The case stayed by the Crown when the victim failed to appear in court to testify at the preliminary hearing
  • 2013 – The charge re-instated by the Crown and proceeded to preliminary hearing
  • 2014 – The case goes to trial and ends with guilty finding to three (3) charges including sexual assault with a weapon and forcible confinement

The Crown asked the court to impose a six (6) year prison sentence.

The Defense asked for a suspended sentence with probation.

The Decision

In a shocking ruling, Queen’s Bench Justice Colleen Suche accepted the defense position and spared the offender jail time or any meaningful consequences for that matter.

Justice Colleen Suche (WFP)
Justice Colleen Suche (WFP)

Suche explained herself by suggesting;

“There’s no evidence before me this was part of a cycle of violence or intimidation.”

Herein lies the one of the problems with a justice system that functions solely based on “evidence” before the court and divorces itself from common-sense and reality.

In reality, domestic violence assaults rarely start with torture, forcible confinements and rapes in front of infant children.  No, I’m afraid that’s a special form of escalating depravity that certainly evolved over time.

Nonetheless, the ruling highlights two (2) major defects in “justice” in Manitoba:

(1) The Bar is Set Far to Low

It seems the bar is set far to low in the Province of Manitoba when it comes to securing some semblance of “justice” for Aboriginal victims of crime.  Conversely, sentencing principles under Gladue often ensures Aboriginal offenders avoid appropriate and just sentences that recognize the harm their offending has caused their victims or communities.

The 2015 RCMP Update to the National Operational Overview identified, “A strong nexus to spousal violence, which points to the need to target prevention efforts towards violence in family relationships as a critical element in reducing homicides of women.”

Chart - RCMP Report
Chart – RCMP Report

In plain english, domestic and family violence continue to significantly contribute to outrageous murdered Aboriginal female statistics.

That reality leads to the question, “Exactly what message does a non-incarcetory sentence send to men who torture, rape and abuse Aboriginal women?”

It also raises the question, “Are Manitoba Judges de-sensitized to the abhorrent violence experienced by Aboriginal people in our Province?”

(2) Inconsistent or Soft Justice

Thankfully, most Judges take a more conciliatory approach to sentencing and give the Crown Attorney’s position reasonable and fair consideration.

That doesn’t seem to be the case for Justice Suche.

In a recent controversial case, Suche ruled that mandatory sentences for firearm offences were tantamount to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The case centered on notorious Winnipeg gangster Mario Adamo who was charged and convicted of possession of a firearm after Police executed a search warrant on his property.  That search netted a firearm, bullet proof vest, ammunition and a “knock off” list of rival gangsters.

The conviction for the firearm offence came with a three (3) year mandatory minimum sentence as prescribed by law.

The Crown sought a five (5) year prison term.

The sentence, six (6) months time served and probation.

Suche ruled the offender Adamo was not a “free actor” and had “reduced moral blameworthiness” by virtue of a “mental disability” he suffered in a baseball bat attack that occurred at the Hells Angels Club House in June of 2000.

Manitoba Justice has appealed her decision.

A Pattern Emerges

I often search the Court of Queen’s Bench website to read rulings so I can gain a full appreciation and understanding of a Judge’s decision.  While I couldn’t find anything on the rape case, I did find a recent ruling Justice Suche made on an Aggravated Assault case where the offender entered a guilty plea. (R vs Laquette – May 2015)

The case involved a vicious beating where a victim was kicked, punched, stomped and ultimately stabbed with a pair of scissors.  The victim suffered a broken ankle, lacerations and bruising.

The twenty-six (26) year old offender had a prior conviction for assault with a weapon (October 2012) where he slashed someone in the face with a knife.  He was sentenced to three (3) months in custody.

The Sentence

The Crown sought a sentence of five (5) years in prison less pre-trial custody.

The Crown indicated the sentence was higher than the sentence sought for other participants largely because the accused’s participation, “Was more egregious for several reasons.” Those reasons included the fact the accused delivered twenty-nine (29) kicks, twenty-three (23) punches and stomped the victim’s leg likely fracturing his ankle.

The Defence sought an unspecified, “rehabilitative sentence.”

The Sentence

In her decision, Suche writes…

“The only issue left to be resolved is whether, in addition to a term of probation, Mr. Laquette should be sentenced to any additional period of incarceration. I do not see that this serves any purpose given that both general and individual deterrence really have no role in this determination.”

She proceeded to sentence the offender to an eighteen (18) month sentence which, she indicated, was satisfied by time served.  Translation – Laquette receives a get out of jail free card.

His freedom will be moderately inconvenienced by a period of three (3) years supervised probation with a number of conditions he will undoubtedly breach.

The sentencing decision contains the trending terms:

  • Diminished moral culpability
  • Reduced moral blameworthiness
  • Not a free actor
  • Mental disability

As if to add insult to injury, Suche writes, “Should Mr. Laquette fail to comply, the police would be immediately notified.”

Alas, the revolving doors of “justice” are guaranteed to spin in perpetuity…

And justice for all…..

FACTOIDS:

Justice Colleen Suche was appointed a Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench on July 16, 2002.

*Throughout her career, her practise was primarily in arbitration, mediation and human rights law.

Queen’s Bench Judges earn upwards of $288,000 per annum.

*source: wikipedia

RELEVANT DOCUMENTS:

What-Is-Gladue

R v Laquette

ABOUT SAGKEENG:

Sagkeeng is comprised of Anicinabe people who have resided at or near the Fort Alexander Indian Reserve #3 located along the Winnipeg River and Traverse Bay, since time immemorial.

The ancestors of the Anicinabe people of Sagkeeng signed Treaty 1 in 1871.  The Fort Alexander Indian Reserve of approximately 21,764 acres was surveyed in 1874 and has a current band membership of 7,637 people with approximately 3,352 living on reserve.

Source: Sagkeeng Anicinabe – website

 

7 Comments

  1. Sure thing James but I’m not great with deadlines!!

  2. Tom..

    Nicely said…

    Would you consider writing the odd article for The Police Insider….

  3. Wayne..

    I know that may people agree with your point…

    Thank you for commenting.

  4. Colleen Suche, is a poster child, for those, who retired B.C. Judge Wallace Craig disparagingly referred to as “Boomer Judges”, who made their début during the Trudeau era. The Ottawa Citizen’s Robert Sibley says they rule by sentimentality – “Judges so indulgent of their self-image as CARING INDIVIDUALS, that they tend to think the criminal is as much a victim, if not more so, than those who suffer the crime.”

    And as Sibley points out, privileged “Boomer Judges” never “have to suffer the consequences” of their decisions. And yet Opposition Leaders continue to slam the government over Mandatory Minimum Sentences, claiming we need to trust the judges! Au contraire!

    Judges should view Mandatory Minimums as notice they’ve been place on a “Performance Objective due to lousy past performance!

  5. And that is why Canadian judges should not be appointed for life. They tend to lose sight of reality.

  6. Mr Stephen – well said.

  7. Thanks for enlightening me to the learned judges background of sentences. I was shocked when I read the Free Press. This judge should take a hard look at herself. Another black eye for the Justice System.

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