I’ve always believed public safety is a shared responsibility between the Police, Public Prosecutions & the Judiciary. The Police detect and apprehend offenders, Public Prosecutions put offenders on trial and the Judiciary metes out Justice.
“Justice,” can be an abstract complicated concept, my idea of Justice might be vastly different from yours. If you spend any time watching the goings on in “Justice” then you will know just how diverse the opinions of Manitoba Judges are on the subject. The public is often outraged by sentencing decisions that seem to be completely out of step with the average citizens sense of what “justice” really is.
I am not immune to that sense of outrage.
Provincial Court Judges bestowing gifts of flowers to convicted teen robbers and doling out one dollar ($1) fines for breaching Court orders, (the infamous “Loonie” Sentence), are but two examples of sentencing decisions that shook the foundations of public confidence in our Judiciary.
It seems a trio of Manitoba Judges are determined to restore that public confidence with common sense sentencing approaches that place significant weight on Public Safety, an apparent radical concept in the Province of Manitoba.
I recently celebrated decisions by Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Mainella and Provincial Court Judge Dale Schille who not only put Public Safety first, they also sent strong messages to offenders that they will be held accountable for their violent criminal conduct.
Enter Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Rick Saull who hammered an Indian Posse gang member yesterday with a nine (9) year sentence for Aggravated Assault. The offender, IP gang member Clarence Scott (23) was convicted by a jury for his participation in a December 2009 gang attack on Kent Wilson at the Milner Ridge Correctional Center. Scott and his crew stomped Wilson who suffered significant head trauma that left him with permanent physical and mental disabilities.
“There is a shocking escalation of gang violence in Manitoba,” Saull said. “In my view, now is the time for some diversionary tactics.”
Saull shared his belief the Courts have to send a strong message to gang members that they will receive long prison terms for participating in violent crime inside or outside of jail. He also kept the sentencing decision “reality based” by indicating Scott had to be considered a high risk to re-offend.
Public Safety first, common sense sentencing decisions can go a long way to restore public confidence and respect for the bench.
By condemning gang violence and holding offenders accountable, Mainella, Schille & Saull have demonstrated a willingness to accept responsibility for the role of the Judiciary to “set the tone” in a Province statistically overrepresented by Homicide, Violent Crime and Street Gang Crime.
Their commitment to Public Safety is commendable and deserving of recognition.
There is hope for Murder City.