The 3rd-ever Golden Crown award

ImageThe third-ever Golden Crown, handed out to some of the best examples of Manitoba prosecutors trying to deter and denounce unlawful conduct goes to…

John Barr — head of youth prosecutions for Manitoba Justice — for at least attempting to put some backbone into what should happen when youths serving so-called “community supervision” portions of their sentences are breached for thumbing their noses at court-ordered conditions. 

Barr recently fought hard to have a provincial court judge’s decision granting bail to a kid accused (but not convicted) of breaching conditions of his 18-month sentence thrown out. 

The kid spent a year in jail with the last six months of his 18-month sentence meant to be served under supervision in the community. 

He got out in July, 2011 but by October was charged with breaching his court-ordered curfew by his probation officer. (And we all know by now what it can take to get a PO to breach a kid). 

However, Barr lost after Justice Brenda Keyser ruled it was unfair to allow adults to get bail on sentence-related breaches but not youths charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

Barr had argued that bail provisions in the YCJA only applied to youths who aren’t yet sentenced. Therefore, the court who granted bail in the first place had no jurisdiction to do so.

The kid’s lawyer argued it would be unfair to subject youths to harsher treatment than an adult might receive; that if an adult serving a conditional sentence can apply for bail in light of a suspected breach, then a youth should be provided the same opportunity. 

Keyser agreed, suggesting silence in the YCJA on the subject of bail for kids accused of breaching their sentences had to do with its “liberal construction” — in other words bail or release from custody is always a consideration or presumed. 

Under the YCJA, the “least restrictive” sanctions to provide criminal kids “meaningful consequences” is paramount. 

“Under the circumstances I find it to be unfair to allow an adult to apply for bail in these situations and not a youth … it would not be consistent with the expressed purpose of the YCJA to interpret the incorporated bail provisions of the Criminal Code as restricting their applicability only to young persons charged with an offence,” Keyser wrote. 

The real kicker is that if the kid is ultimately convicted of the breach, he’ll most likely get probation or even a fine, so even if it’s proven he thumbed his nose at the court, it won’t truly deter him from doing it again. 

That’ll teach him.

Regardless of the loss, I salute Mr. Barr for his efforts. We all should. 

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Deja vu

In late November 2003, a 22-year-old woman is convicted of assault and given a short time-in-custody sentence and 18 months of probation.

She’s released from jail that same day.

One of the conditions of her probation is to take up immediate residence at the Behavioural Health Foundation to seek help for her cocaine addiction.

She never turns up.

A warrant is issued. She’s arrested and convicted of breaching probation on Jan. 9, 2004.

She’s released after 22 days in jail.

A few days later, on Jan. 26, 2004, she’s arrested at the scene of a 77-year-old man’s home on Maryland Street.

He’s already been carted off to the Grace Hospital in an ambulance.

From the Crown’s submission at the woman’s bail hearing on Jan. 28:

The accused sometimes attends to the complainant’s home to drink.

..The accused had consumed some liquor and then an argument started between them. It escalated to the point where the accused struck the complainant on the head with a small wooden coffee table. During the attack the accused said to the complainant: ‘I will kill you.’ She took his house and car keys and left the residence.

The elderly victim suffers cuts to his face and several to his hands. He’s admitted and spends at least the night under observation of doctors.

The Crown continues:

While the police were at the complainant’s house investigating, the accused returned to the address, but when she saw police she took off on foot. She was captured a short distance later and was arrested for the offences.

The accused, Mary Ellen Thomas, AKA Mary Ellen Young, AKA Mary Ann Smith is read her rights and given the usual caution by officers. She’s charged with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000, breaching probation and uttering threats.

The Crown rattles off a number of Thomas/Young/Smith’s priors for Judge Ron Meyers:

  • December 2000, 2x breach of undertaking; 2x communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 2002, Fail to appear and breach of probation
  • January 2002, Fail to comply with conditions of release, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • February 2002, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • July 2002, breach probation, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 23, 2003, 4x court-order breaches, mischief under $5,000
  • Nov. 24, 03, assault, breach recognizance

The Crown:

“She admitted the assaults verbally on the complainant by stating, ‘he acts like he’s helping me and he’s not. When I’m sleeping he touches me. I just got fed up and beat him up,” Shelley McFadyen tells Meyers.

Her defence lawyer pledges to the judge that if she’s let go, she’ll be good this time.

Meyers says, flat out: no way.

His decision sticks until April Fool’s Day, 2004, when Young/Thomas/Smith and her lawyer take that decision to a higher court judge for review.

In an affidavit filed on her behalf, the woman, a mother to three young kids, claims she suffers from depression and cocaine addiction.

A rehab placement at the Pritchard House is awaiting, she says.

She will live there, get help and not leave the place unless accompanied by a staffer. She also will post $1,000 cash money, not drink alcohol or take drugs and stay away from the victim of the assault.

Justice Colleen Suche agrees to let her go on those conditions.

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Fast forward to July 31, 2010.

A woman freshly out on bail and breaching her release conditions is arrested at Mike Allan’s home in Winnipeg’s Lord Roberts neighbourhood.

She had been granted bail June 23, despite the judge’s reservations about her record of violent priors and violations of court orders.

By now, she’s also amassed further convictions for violence and served her first federal prison sentence of 2.5 years.

Neighbours had called in a report to police that there had been some kind of disturbance in the home.

Allan is found dead by officers inside, and the woman is also suspected in a stabbing that occurred a few blocks away. An 18-year-old woman is badly injured in the attack.

Allan, 62, and the woman had just met that night, police say. Allan’s family says the two were drinking beer when there was an escalating argument that turned physical.

The neighbour tells CBC News that the woman had emerged from the home and claimed to have knocked him down.

Allan, a frail, sick man who was also alcoholic, likely couldn’t have put up a fight.

Police said after Allan and the woman had the fight, she left the home and then returned, where she was arrested and held in custody.

Police identify the suspect as Mary Ellen Thomas, 30. She’s charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and multiple bail breaches.

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