Ros Melnyk (20) is a poster boy for two major defects in Canadian criminal justice.
The revolving doors of justice and concurrent sentences.
Let me explain….
On March 19, 2014, Melnyk was nabbed by a caretaker and his son after he was observed acting in a suspicious manner in an apartment block in the 300 block of Poplar Avenue. The dynamic duo managed to overcome Melnyk’s resistance and held him for Police.
After taking custody of Melnyk, Police conducted an investigation that led to him being identified as a highly skilled, prolific serial residential break & enter offender. Police indicate Melnyk’s method of entry was somewhat unusual in that he used lock picks and listening devices, normally used to crack safes, to cheat door locks. In all, Melnyk is believed to be responsible for causing property damage and stealing goods to a value of $80,000.00.
The investigation resulted in the following charges being laid;
- Break, Enter & Theft x 31
- Break & Enter with Intent x 3
- Possess B&E instruments
- Several weapons related offences
Anyone with experience in criminal justice should recognize that serial offenders like Melnyk make significant contributions to the overall crime statistics experienced in crime ridden Cities like Winnipeg. Melnyk is part of the dedicated elite 5% of criminals who generate up to 90% of the crime that afflicts us.
The East District Police Officers who investigated Melnyk are acutely aware of this reality and lodged him in the Provincial Remand Center. The arrest of serial offenders like Melnyk are somewhat like “interventions,” of sorts as these offenders rarely have the motivation to stop their criminal conduct unit they’re forced to do so.
Enter the Crown Prosecutor.
The Prosecutor in this case appears to have agreed to Melnyk’s release, but only if he can find someone foolish enough to post a $10,000 surety to spring him. If released, he’ll have to abide by a 9 pm to 6 am curfew, an interesting condition given that most residential break & enters occur during day time hours.
While I don’t often find fault with Crown Prosecutor’s I have to admit the decision to consent to Melnyk’s bail should be a concern to all of us.
The Revolving Doors of Justice;
The revolving doors of justice are a “real thing” and present a significant issue for Law Enforcement. Once released, Melnyk becomes the sole burden and responsibility of the Police Service. Will the Police have the time to drop by his house every night to make sure he’s abiding by his curfew? Do the Police need the extra work? Will the Police be able to catch him if, and more likely, when starts breaking into people’s apartments again?
Let’s not forget, Melnyk committed thirty-four (34) Break & Enters offences and successfully avoided the detection of Law Enforcement. His luck only ran out when a sharp-eyed gutsy citizen turned the tables on him.
I suspect the fact Melnyk has no criminal record played into the Crown’s decision to grant him bail.
Should that really matter?
Record or not, Melnyk made the choice to become an elite, dedicated, serial criminal offender. His crimes have affected dozens of law-abiding citizens who suffered the loss of property, property damage and the emotional trauma of having the sanctity of their homes violated. The choice should have come with harsh consequences and negated any charitable consideration from the Crown.
I have to ask, where did the need to protect the public enter into the equation?
Therein lies the rub…
Canadian justice has now made Ros Melnyk an offender with almost nothing to lose.
The reality is, it matters not if Melnyk decides to add another five (5), ten (10) or twenty (20) more Break & Enters to his resume. Cases like his are almost always resolved by way of plea bargain. The addition of twenty (20) or more charges will have little or no consequences for him. That happens to be the primary problem Police associate with the catch and release program. The charges pile up only to be dealt away by the dozen. I’ve seen it hundreds of times.
Crown Prosecutors have to be alert to these concerns and should be ready to fight to keep offenders like Melnyk behind bars.
That brings me to the next issue.
Ros Melnyk will surely be the benefactor of concurrent sentences and stays of proceedings once the plea bargain dust settles on the court room floor.
A concurrent sentence is a sentence that runs at the same time, or concurrently, with another sentence.
If Melnyk pleads guilty to fifteen (15) counts of Break & Enter and receives a sentence of twelve (12) months for each offence, he would only have to serve a period of twelve (12) months in custody. The fact he was sentenced to a total of fifteen (15) years in prison means nothing when a sentence runs concurrently.
Concurrent sentences are nothing more than judicial smoke screens that have little meaning or effect in the real world. Their only redeeming quality is the fact they register as convictions and “may” impact future sentences received by an offender.
Sadly, there is no real “truth” in sentencing in Canada.
The truth is, concurrent sentences, 2 -1 discounts, parole, statutory release, escorted and unescorted temporary absences are all forms of soft justice discounts that undermine real “truth” in sentencing.
At some point we’re going to have to try to stop the bleeding.