In one of the most anticlimactic endings to a sentencing hearing I’ve recently seen, Judge Mary Kate Harvie took Manitoba justice to a new all time low.
In mid December I wrote a story called “The Law Is an Ass – Manitoba Judge Clueless.”
The story was inspired by Judge Harvie’s decision to allow a convicted serial B&E offender the “right” to argue for “enhanced credit” for a portion of the eighteen (18) months he’d spent in pre-trial custody. Her ruling undermined Federal Legislation that removed that option for offenders who were denied bail because of factors related to their criminal record.
The new legislation also dictates offenders are only to receive 1-1 credit for pretrial custody unless “circumstances justify” the award of enhanced credit.
In her ruling Harvie suggested the new Federal Law was an affront to convicted offenders, “Fundamental right to life, liberty and security of the person.”
The case involved habitual serial property offender Gordon Kovich (23) who plead guilty to fifteen (15) break & enter offences where property in the neighborhood of $100,000 was stolen. Kovich is no stranger to Law Enforcement and has a long, continuous and unenviable record. He’s one of the elite, committed criminals who occupies a place in the top 5% of offenders who perpetrate the majority of crime in the City of Winnipeg.
The Crown, aware of these factors, sought a sentence of seven (7) years incarceration. The Defense, of course, sought a grossly disproportionate sentence of four (4) years with a further reduction of twenty-six (26) months for time served and enhanced credit.
The decision was nothing less than outrageous!
Kovich caught a paltry twenty-four (24) month sentence after receiving dead time credit of nineteen (19) months and “enhanced credit” of five (5) additional months. That works out to a ratio of roughly 1.25 days – 1 of enhanced credit. Pursuant to section 719 (3.2) the court is required to give reasons for any enhanced credit granted and state those reasons on the record.
So exactly what “circumstances justified” the award of enhanced credit in Judge Harvie’s mind.
According to a Winnipeg Free Press article penned by crime reporter James Turner, Harvie indicated she awarded the enhanced credit because Kovich, “Had been employed in jail and had taken Bible study and other programs.” (Harvie also gave Kovich unspecified consideration for delays in concluding the case.)
Now I admit I’m not a member of Parliament, nor was I included in the process of drafting the legislation, but I’m pretty sure that trivial pursuits such as prison employment and bible study were never intended to meet the criteria to justify giving enhanced credit.
Crown position – Seven (7) years – minus 1-1 credit for dead time of nineteen (19) months
Defense position – One (1) year 10 months – includes credit for twenty-six (26) months dead time
Actual decision – Two (2) years – includes credit for two (2) years dead time
Now ask yourself, what’s wrong with this picture?
The extraordinarily soft sentence Gordon Kovich is set to enjoy will undoubtedly translate to tens of thousands of dollars in stolen property and thousands of dollars in costs related to Police investigations, arrests and court proceedings. The pain from those costs will be felt by members of our business community, insurance companies and the tax paying public.
Would Judges make these kind of decisions if they were accountable to victims of crime or if they were subject to some form of civilian oversight empowered with the ability to sanction decisions that bring the administration of justice into disrepute?
Harvie’s decision does exactly that, it brings the entire administration of justice into disrepute.
I can assure you judgements like these frustrate, alienate and destroy Police Officer’s respect for the judiciary and the administration of justice. After all, it’s Law Enforcement who has to pick up the pieces when the Gordon Kovich’s of the world go on their drug fuelled crime sprees.
You can mark my words….
In the case of Gordon Kovich, it’s not a question of if he re-offends, it’s a question of when.
Kovich will be eligible for parole after he serves 2/3’s or sixteen (16) months of his sentence.
The Crown is expected to appeal.