Stories in the press that give me comfort the concerns of average citizens are represented in the Courts are rare. Crime Reporter James Turners report “Young violent thug to get adult sentence,” is an exception to the rule.
In his report, Turner highlights Court of Queens Bench Justice Chris Mainella’s refreshing sentencing approach regarding a violent sixteen (16) year old young offender. The criminal allegations against the youth were disturbing.
On March 31, 2011, in the early morning hours, the offender and a group of thugs did an armed home invasion on Flora Ave where a number of children under ten (10) years of age were fast asleep. The thugs subsequently held a knife to a woman’s throat and made death threats to her and her son. The bandits rifled the home and fled but were collared a short distance away by Police with the help of a tracking dog.
The offender in question was detained at the Youth Center, however, as a first time offender, his release on bail was a mere formality.
On May 20, 2011, the ne’er-do-well was at it again, only this time he’d follow through on his threats. His victim, a woman leaving her office on Portage Ave in the mid afternoon. The mistake she made was carrying a brown paper bag that looked like it might contain a liquor bottle.
“Give me the f-ing bag or I will punch you in the face,” he said. In an instant he made good on his threat and knocked her to the ground. Much to his dismay he’d find out the bag contained a bottle of bubble bath that he’d bounce off the victim’s head in disgust. It was a despicable attack that left the woman physically and emotionally traumatized, factors not lost on Justice Mainella who said;
“What occurred has deeply affected (the victim’s) faith in basic human decency. The court cannot forget that and must impose a sentence mindful of the intentional harm inflicted.”
The offender would get busted two (2) months later doing garage B&E’s in Norwood.
In sentencing the Youth to an adult sentence Justice Mainella demonstrated a concern and willingness to represent the people who have entrusted him to safeguard the public safety, a seemingly rare consideration in our criminal Courts..
“Sentences for violent young people must ensure public confidence in the youth criminal justice system. A youth sentence for this young person would do the opposite. A sentence under the (Youth Criminal Justice Act) provides little reasonable assurance of (his) rehabilitation or safe reintegration into society.”
Rather than be influenced by the usual sentencing sob stories so often heard in Manitoba Courts, the dysfunctional childhood, sexual abuse, foster care et al, Justice Mainella did an unusual thing. He departed from a soft justice offender driven approach, put public safety first and demanded accountability from the offender.
If sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the youth would only face a maximum three (3) year sentence, one year of which would have to be served in the community. A sentence that’s not long enough to hold the offender accountable according to Justice Mainella.
“There are legitimate public safety concerns as to how violent young people are dealt with, particularly when, as is the case here, the young person’s criminal activity is a lifestyle.” “What the youth criminal justice system does with the young person should promote, not undermine, public respect for the administration of justice,” he said.
If only Justice Mainella’s sentencing philosophy was contagious.
Turner reports the Crown may seek a sentence of up to six (6) years.
The case returns to Court on May 27.