Estimate this: Tidbits on Manitoba’s justice system

(Winnipeg Sun file)

Information unreported in the media from the ‘leg Justice Estimates debates that concluded Monday after three days.

Full debates here if you care.

 

 

 

In bullet points [no order]:

  •  Average length of jail stay for sentenced adult offenders in Manitoba: 65 days. Youth: 187 days.
  •  Average length of remand custody for adults: 49 days. Youth: 34 days.
  •  There are six levels of inmates pay within the Manitoba corrections system, based on the work they do: lowest (level one) is $2.20 a day, the highest (level six) is $4.70 a day.
  •  Amount jurors paid to hear trials: $0 for first 10 days, afterwards $30 a day.

 Minister Andrew Swan: 280 persons actually performed jury duty in Winnipeg, including alternates. Forty-two persons performed jury duty in the regions. So the total number of jurors was 322. There were 21 jury trials in Winnipeg and three in the regions for a total of 24.

Minister Swan: The guidelines are that the accused must suffer from a severe and pervasive DSM-IV access one mental disorder. That includes, but is not limited to, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, anxiety disorders and severe depression … I can advise that individuals suffering from personality disorders, from organic brain issues such as dementia associated with Alzheimer’s, or an FASD who don’t suffer from an access one disorder, aren’t candidates for the mental health court.

  •  Nintendo Wii units are used at the women’s correctional centre for fitness and exercise. Nintendo DS systems at the youth jail in Portage la Prairie and a Playstation at Headingley jail. They are purchased through the inmate’s trust fund.
  •  “There is some value” in considering using provincial inmates to do public works like parks cleanup, Swan says.
  •  An inmate emailed Justice critic Kelvin Goertzen about watching porn in prisons: “We was watching porn back in October when they installed new cable boxes through Westman Cable; we watched numerous porns, even rented the Diaz v. Condit UFC fight, numerous pay-per-view movies,” he said of the contents of the email.
  •  There is no program for tattoo removal within Manitoba Corrections. Swan said they are looking at one to see if it’s worthy.
  •  There has been one (although some are adamant two) accidental releases of prisoners from Manitoba jails so far this year.
  •  An accidental-release review commissioned by the province last year from an Alberta consultant cost $12,000.
  • Work on the 3rd floor floor of the “new” law courts complex will begin this year. For at least three years, the floor has been ripped up and taped off like a crime scene. [Note: it’s really embarrassing it’s been that way for so long. Tile problems were the apparent issue. Not sure why proper tiles are so hard to find.]
  • Funding for an additional Court of Appeal researcher has been added for this year. Many decisions — despite there being fewer requested in recent years — are more complex and take longer. Many cases take between 6-7 months to be decided. The national standard from the Canadian Judicial Council is six months.
  •  It can take two years to get a preliminary hearing date in Thompson. [It’s not much different in Winnipeg for multi-day prelims.]
  •  Crown attorneys will deal with an expected 154 constitutional challenges this year. Three-quarters of them relate to criminal cases.
  •  As of last Monday, not one gang has been listed as a criminal organization under the Manitoba Evidence Act. This crime-fighting tool was announced in April 2010
  •  Criminal justice budget [adopted] $166,204,000
  • Civil justice budget [adopted] $35,535,000
  • Corrections budget [adopted] $196,965,000
  • Courts budget (adopted] $53,620,000

Manitoba’s mental health court sits May 10

It was many, many moons ago that the NDP declared there would be a provincial mental health court in Manitoba. Nearly a decade has passed.

From the WFP 6/11/2011: By Mary Agnes Welch

It was 2004 when then-Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh first said a mental health court was in the works.

“We’re of the view that if we’re going to have a successful mental health court we have to develop this slowly and sure-footedly,” he told the Free Press at the time.

“Slowly” turned into seven years. Last week, the province announced the court would finally launch this winter.

Selinger said it took time to do proper due diligence and planning on things like the mental health court to get them to a workable point.

“We put it in the throne speech last fall and we did it this spring,” said Selinger of the mental health court. “That’s a pretty fast turnaround.”

But, according to a judicial memo circulated today, we can all mark May 10, 2012 on our calendars as the day the shiny new MHC will sit for the first time.

Re: MENTAL HEALTH COURT 

Effective Thursday May 10, 2012, Mental Health Court (MHC) will sit weekly on Thursdays at 1 p.m. in courtroom 408, 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba.

This problem-solving court will hear matters where the accused’s involvement with the criminal justice system is a result of mental health issues and there the particulars of the incident(s) fall within the sets of criteria established by the Crown and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team.

PROCESS: 

Persons with mental health issues who have been or are about to be charged with an offence may be identified to the Crown by police, courts or corrections staff or counsel.

In these cases, the Crown will review the file and may refer the accused to the FACT team for a suitability and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application for and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application form and the required waiver form. Provided the accused is a suitable candidate for MHC and willing to participate, the FACT team will prepare a report to the MHC judge which will include a treatment plan. This process constitutes application to Mental Health Court.

Until an accused applies for MHC, the charges will be remanded on the pre-trial coordinator’s dockets. Upon application, the accused with appear for the first time on the MHC docket as arranged by counsel with court staff. The accused will enter guilty pleas, file application and waiver forms and enter into a bail as agreed upon by all parties. The charges will then be remanded week to week while the accused’s mental health is addressed during the treatment plan.

Each Thursday at 12 p.m. the MHC judge will meet with the FACT team and counsel in Judges’ chambers to discuss the treatment progress of each person on the docket. During the court sitting as the Crown calls each matter the MHC judge will address the named accused directly to encourage ongoing commitment.

As each accused’s mental health improves, appearances may become less frequent. Upon the treatment plan being completed, the accused will make a final appearance before the MHC judge either to be sentenced to a community based disposition or for the Crown to stay the charges.

The entire process is expected to take 18-24 months from referral to disposition.

ISSUED By Chief Judge Ken Champagne, Provincial Court of Manitoba

Over the past few months I had heard rumblings this would be happening, but like many, I’m sure, had no idea when.

The only other thing I had heard is that the Crown prosecutor who will be running the show is Susan Helenchilde, who is leaving community prosecutions to take this on.

The first Mental Health Court started in 1998 in Toronto, putting us well behind the curve in terms of time — that’s also allowed (hopefully) Manitoba to gain from the knowledge MHC’s in other jurisdictions have only gleaned through trial (pun intended) and error.

It’s interesting to note that in Toronto’s system, there’s a wide range of offences that aren’t eligible for MHC (below).

We’ll obviously learn in coming days what’s permissible for MHC in Manitoba.

I’d also highly recommend reading the “factors to consider” section of the Toronto MHA website. It’s also clear that Manitoba’s taking a bit of a ‘baby-step’ approach by electing (as per the memo above) to not stay charges until the treatment plan is completed.

Geeks can read stats analysis and other research topics on MHC’s here at Stats Can. (Like the court, your tax dollars paid for it, may as well read it.)

3. Eligibility of Offences

    • a. Offences that are not eligible (also known as Class III for purposes of other practice memoranda)

The following classes of offences will not be eligible for treatment plans or supervisory programs as an alternative to prosecution, regardless of the circumstances of the alleged offence or the accused:

      • murder, manslaughter, infanticide, criminal negligence causing death;
      • causing death or bodily harm by dangerous or impaired driving;
      • any offence causing serious bodily harm;
      • simple impaired driving or driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration;
      • offences involving firearms;
      • criminal organization offences;
      • kidnapping;
      • spouse/partner offences
      • child abuse;
      • offences involving child pornography
      • sexual offences including sexual assault, interference and exploitation, invitation to sexual touching and incest;
      • specific hate offences
      • home invasions;
      • perjury;

Manitoba kids ‘in custody’: The numbers

Manitoba was the only province in the *country* where the average count of youths in provincial custody — read:  on remand in jail, serving sentences or in the community on probation or community supervision — went up in 2010, the latest data available from Statistics Canada.

The data was released by the federal agency last week, and appears to show Manitoba being a leader when it comes to the number of criminally-involved kids in the system.

The data is an average monthly “in count” of youths in custody: Here’s what it measures, according to Stats Can

Total actual-in counts represent the sum of sentenced, remand and other status counts and exclude inmates temporarily not in custody at the time of the count. Total actual-in counts include provincial director remand not included in the remand and other temporary detention counts.

I make no assumption of what this data actually means, other than it appears to reflect to some degree the seriousness of youth crime in Manitoba, given that being locked up is always a last resort for judges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Under the Act, all reasonable alternatives to custody must be looked at before actually locking the cell’s — sorry, unit ‘s— door.

However, without a more comprehensive breakdown of how many youths recorded in the average were on probation or community supervision as part of a sentence, that’s a guess on my part.

But the also shows a massive disparity between the number of kids in provincial custody in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Again, without wanting to jump to some wrong conclusion, it appears where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Youth crime in our province is a major, under-reported issue. But I’ve always said that.

Here’s the data for your perusal. Comments and thoughts welcome:

Screen Shot 2012-02-05 at 3
(Courtesy Stats Canada)

Here’s a link to the statistics report, which was not subjected to an analysis by the agency. You can read how the data was sourced and the methodology there.

***(excluding Quebec, which did not report 2010 numbers).

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I note with some irony that this post marks number 204 for this blog since its inception — 204 being the Manitoba area code.

The judge’s tirade came maybe just a bit too late

Judge Fred Sandhu

You gotta admire Provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.

At the same time, you have to pity the fact he can’t simply walk into the CBC or the offices of any other media outlet in Winnipeg and put his opinions on the record for all to hear.

It’s the job of the media to be there to hear what judges like Sandhu have to say. And in this case, only the Winnipeg Sun was on September 30, 2011 — a few days prior to the election — but his words apparently went largely un-noticed by the electorate.

Sandhu was charged on that day with sentencing Daniel Smith, 26, for cracking a broomstick over the head of his wife while she breastfed their child. Then he stabbed her a few times with it.

They were fighting over beer, and the fact money was used to buy the baby essentials at Wal-Mart instead of more booze. The overconsumption of liquor and resulting problems has been a frequent issue in Smith’s life, Sandhu heard.

Without question, one of the most read and commented on posts on this blog in the last year was a recent one about Manitoba’s booze problem and its impact on our soaring violent crime rate.

And how it should be a key focus of any political party seeking reelection if they’re truly serious about ‘getting tough on crime.’

While many comments were positive and agreed to varying extents with my position, others — sent by email, largely, attacked me for taking a perceived prudish and anti-personal-responsibility stance on the issue of alcoholism and booze consumption in our province.

It’s like the Air Canada story that’s been rocking the airwaves this week. The truth hurts.

Sandhu, for whatever reason — frustration, anger, boredom — whatever, used Smith’s case to rail about the provincial booze-influenced-crime issue for an extended period of time.

In addition to my short story in Metro Winnipeg (Dean Pritchard’s earlier story is here), I wanted to put his “tirade” on the record in full.

Here it is, mostly verbatim, for the public record, emphasis mine.

‘Did you hear what you did?’ — it’s rhetorical.

Your behaviour was animalistic. That’s not the way even semi-decent human beings behave.

… It appears to me is what she did is she was asked to get beer and she changed — didn’t want to.

She went and got baby stuff instead because of some reason; she felt the baby needed some stuff.

And here you were, you and your wife and this cousin (Note: she’s 12) — I don’t know how much she was drinking, you were insistent, as was your wife,

‘No, we want to drink.’

That’s much more important to you than anything else.

‘We want to drink’ and if you don’t drink, she comes back without beer, without alcohol and it’s  — you get so upset with this that you hit her over the head with a broomstick — and that wasn’t good enough for you. While she’s holding the four-(month)-old, as I’ve been told, that wasn’t good enough for you and you start stabbing her with it.

All for what? For alcohol? Because you wanted more alcohol?

I don’t understand. I understand the power of alcohol — and that people do what appear to be very evil things because they were under the influence of what can be a very evil substance.

And I’ve been told that the combination in terms of costs to society of alcohol is many, many times greater by factors of 10 and 20 and 30 than any — all of the other drugs combined.

And that’s what we see here day to day, the effects of alcohol. And we hear about people doing these evil things and they say: ‘Well, I’m under the influence of alcohol.’

And I understand that that’s not an excuse, it’s not an excuse, but it shows me — and it’s shown to me day after day, and year after year, the incredible evil of alcohol on certain people. In certain situations.

And the evil is compounded by the fact that even when people appear here, time after time, having done what appear to be evil things, they can’t stop.

They continue to drink — and they continue to do evil things.

And then we look at all that and go, ‘well, is it the person that’s evil?’ The act was certainly evil. ‘Is the person evil? Is alcohol evil?’

You can’t ignore the fact that alcohol’s involved in all of these things. And here’s an almost perfect example of a person who can’t get the alcohol, who can’t get the thing that they crave and they do these animalistic things.

All for the power of alcohol — because of the power of alcohol. Sold at the corner store.

Friendly neighbourhood grocery store soon. 

And we wonder ‘how come there’s so much crime, how come there’s so much apparent evil in the world?’

And the only thing I hear about the alcohol is, ‘Oh, people are using it as an excuse,’ ‘Oh, why should they get less time because they’re drinking alcohol?’

That’s not the point.

The whole point being missed is what alcohol does to people, how it changes their behaviour, how they don’t even remember what they did.

Somebody who is on cocaine or marijuana or on speed, or on meth — you don’t see them doing these things. Maybe once in a while, something happens, an overdose …

But what happens day after day, month after month, year after year, case after case — is alcohol.

And people try to do things about it and get treatment — they try to go through rehab time and time again. They come back to court, thy lose their freedom. They lose their family, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives — they know other people have lost their lives and they still drink. Absolutely no control.

The control is completely from the substance — and that has to be recognized.

I‘m getting tired of this, in that the … the effect of alcohol people, and the complete lack of treatment facilities in this province to deal with it and people burying their heads in the sand about what the reality is. 

Has to end. Look what it’s doing to our society. And the courts are supposed to deal with it? How can we deal with it?

The only power that I have is to take away your freedom. That’s my ultimate power. That’s it. That’s all I have. When you leave the courtroom here today, you’re not to be punished any further — your punishment is your loss of freedom and that’s it.

When you go to jail, you’re not required to do anything … you’re not required to go to rehab, you’re not required to deal with the alcohol.

You don’t want to, you don’t have to. That because the only power the court has  — your loss of freedom. There is nothing other than the lower penalties that we have, the fines and so on. But the ultimate penalty is simply your loss of freedom.

And it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with all the time on your hand — because you’ve had lots of time on your hands and you’ve done nothing about your alcohol — I haven’t heard anything from your lawyer that you’ve even tried. Maybe you’re one of these people that alcohol is such a strong attraction that you don’t care. You don’t even care for rehab. There’s even a song about that: ‘You don’t even care for rehab,’ because you want the alcohol.

For you, the shining light on the hill is alcohol and you stab people and you hit them over the head with a broomstick and you run up a criminal record that’s three pages long — all alcohol related.

And you’re one of those people that’s only going to quit when you’re face down in the ground.

Is that what you want to be? Is that your life? Four-month-old baby — you’re going to lose your baby, you’re going to lose your life, you’re going to lose your freedom, gonna lose your job — if you had one — that didn’t stop you.

And eventually, there’s gonna be a time where you could well be locked up indefinitely.

Because if you have no control over this substance that makes you such an angry person, makes you do such evil acts — even though you yourself may not be evil ‚ then we have to deal with the evil act. We can’t deal with the person anymore — there’s comes a time, and as I said, the courts have very limited power. We can’t cure the problems of society by sitting here and sending people to jail. It’s not our job.

That’s the job of society to deal with it. And society wants to bury their heads in the sand.

And don’t blame the courts for not being able to fix society’s evils.

Sandhu even made the point of jumping Smith’s time for failing to comply with a probation order for verboten drinking by 15 days (from 45 to 60).

“I think even the two months is generous,” he said.

He even rubbed it in a tiny bit by ordering that Smith pay the $300 victim fine surcharge in the case — a penalty usually wiped out when a person has been locked up for months and months because they’ve likely lost everything. Smith was credited with double time for just shy of a year behind bars.

Just a final word, Mr. Smith. Do something about your alcohol. Unless you want to die, do something about it. I know many people who are very fine people when they are not drinking. And they’re completely different people when they are drinking. And if they didn’t drink, I would say that we wouldn’t even see them. Wouldn’t even see them in court — but we see them time after time after time.

And I give this speech to a lot of people — well, part of this speech to a lot of people — I know it doesn’t get through. All I can try to do is tell you that there is help available. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to be back here again. And again and again and again.

… It’s your life. You’ve got another 50 years to go. Is this how you want to spend it?

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‘Whitey’s’ words:

(Ian Jackson MacDonald and his daughters/James Turner)

Ian Jackson MacDonald’s comments upon leaving the Remand Centre Wednesday afternoon:

(MacDonald, affectionately known as ‘Big Mac’ or ‘Whitey’ has faced the music for his role in plotting to import large amounts  — the Crown called them ‘bales’ — of weed into Manitoba in the late 70’s. U.S. Marshals nabbed him in November, in Florida, after 30 yrs on the run. The drug investigation reached into the Manitoba Legislature with MLA Bob Wilson being indicted and sent to prison for his role. The case is so old that the trial transcripts were typed with a manual typewriter using onion-skin paper, just to give you an example of the history.)

On getting out after months of being locked up, sick with cancer and several other ailments that have greatly reduced his life expectancy:

“It felt like a great relief to get out in the sunshine and out of the nasty air conditioning in that building.”

”We’re doing OK. I’ve never been in jail before, never had a criminal record before – so this is all something very new to me. That’s about it.”

On being reunited with his kids – who he didn’t see for three decades after choosing to go on the lam:

“It feels great. They’re my daughters, they’re my buddies…they’ve come from California, from LA to fix me up, to look after me…I have a family again.”

His reaction to the two-year house arrest sentence handed to him – one carefully negotiated by the highest levels of the federal Justice department and his own lawyer, Sheldon Pinx:

“It’s amazing, for such a little amount of substance that, uh, they take a 93-year-old man and boy, they’re sure giving it to me.”

On saying on prior occasions that former MLA Bob Wilson is innocent:



”I’m starting to wonder about that.”

(Gets cut off by daughters and whisked away.)



Remembering a God-fearing man’s senseless death

(Tim Knudsen, second from left, with family)

When disabled or vulnerable people — like Harvey Sanderson Jr. — wind up beaten and dead, my blood boils.

I’m likely not alone.

Sanderson’s beating seems so callous and pointless.

But, in some small way, it allows me a small opportunity to offer my apology to the family of a vulnerable man beaten to death in fall 2008 because he didn’t have a smoke to give a passing drunk.

As it is with Sanderson, I had the same dull pit of anger in by gut in the days following the killing of Tim Knudsen outside the Salvation Army — his home.

As I’ve come to learn, some of those who participated in the group beating that ultimately caused the 300 lb. “gentle giant” to suffer a massive brain injury and die remain at large. They know who they are and hopefully they live in shame and torment for their actions.

A week or so after Knudsen died, police arrested two men who ultimately pleaded guilty.

Cyril Raven — who initiated the attack, punched Knudsen, knocked him down and walked away, pleaded to assault cause bodily harm and got a sentence of 190 days time served and two years of probation, which is still ongoing.

Dean Isbister — who joined in and kicked the prone, defenceless Knudsen in the head at least twice — pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a sentence of 638 days time served, plus two years less a day of jail to top it off and three years probation to follow.

They were sentenced June 17, 2010 in front of Judge Marvin Garfinkel.

Their punishments, from what I can tell through news archives, has never been reported.

But more importantly, what was never put on the record is the comments made by Knudsen’s sister, Ann Piekoff, in her statement to the court — and the two men held responsible for the crime.

Ann was kind enough to sit and talk with me back in my Free Press days. Judging from the date of the post of our time together, it was a few months after her beloved brother died.

To hear her talk about how there were no defensive wounds found on her brother’s hands during the autopsy.

I committed back then to seeing the prosecution through, but lost track of it along the line, having switched jobs and responsibilities.

For that, I apologize.

And while I could rail on about what some may call “weak” sentence meted out by the courts for the loss of a good man’s life (however challenged it was) there’s no point. Given conflicting statements given by witnesses at the scene, the Crown was probably lucky to get the convictions it did.

What is important, I feel today, is to remember Knudsen — through the words of his sister as told to Garfinkel.

Here they are, for the record.

Sadly, Tim’s life ended tragically, far too soon, almost two years ago. To understand what we have lost, your Honour, you have to know a little bit about who Tim was and what he meant to me and to his family and friends.

Tim didn’t choose his life, but he lived it the best he could. He had his challenges mentally and physically but he never burdened others with his issues. He was fiercely independent and chose to live on his own in a community where he was accepted and indeed had many friends.

Tim loved the outdoors and often went fishing with his friends from the Booth Centre. He especially loved going to the Goldeyes games or the football games when he had the chance.

Sundays would find him at chapel where he loved music and singing. He had a passion for music — all kinds of music from heavy metal to … gospel.

The last photo we have of Tim is him at a gospel meeting, reading from the Bible.

Even though Tim was independent and wanted to live on his own he was still very much connected to his family.

I had a weekly ritual with Tim.

He would call me on Mondays to arrange a day to come over to visit myself and his two nieces.

He would always come over early so then he could cut my grass or shovel the snow. He would do anything I asked him to.

He loved family get-togethers and celebrations. Even though he didn’t talk a lot, you knew he enjoyed being around our gatherings.

Now, when my parents come to visit, there’s an empty spot at the dinner table. I see the pain and the sadness in my parents’ eyes knowing that Tim won’t be there.

It would be easy to judge or dismiss Tim as a homeless bum based on where he lived and his physical appearance. But Tim was part of a loving family and was loved by us as well as his friends.

Tim was our gentle giant, he was generous to a fault and would never lift a hand against another. The tragedy is he chose to live independently —as was his right— and because of his challenges he was vulnerable.

I was his big sister and I should have been able to protect him but could not.

His death leaves a hole in our lives as it does for his friends and our community.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I and my family don’t think about him.

I miss him.

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Judge Lismer just says ‘no’

(ChrisD.ca)If you’re a young offender who frequently thumbs his or her nose at court orders, the last place you wanted to be today was in front of Judge Ted Lismer in an effort to get out on bail for the weekend.

Without any speeches, remonstrations or soft-handed explanations, Lismer wasn’t giving any breaks today.

There were two cases that stood out.

Exhibit one: The Level-4 offender

At 17, he was once considered one of the city’s worst candidates for stealing cars, driving them dangerously and endangering the public.

Police the gang-involved youth consider him to be an extremely high-risk to reoffend.

But in recent months, he’s been making somewhat of a turnaround and attending mandatory daily meetings with a program meant to try and help these kids turn their lives around.

His lawyer says he’s suffered as a byproduct of Manitoba’s devolution policy regarding kids in care — apprehended by CFS at age three after his mother couldn’t cope with her substance-abuse issues — he was placed with his two brothers in a foster home after the trio ran away and were found by RCMP.

By age nine, CFS officials decided to break up the siblings in an effort to place him in a more “culturally sensitive” home (his words). Since then, he’s been “shuffled through CFS for the last number of years.”

(Aside: every kid in court today (a docket of 10 or so) was involved in the child-welfare system.)

From there, the wheels fell off the bus, and crime, gangs and a disrespect for authority set in.

He’s amassed 17 convictions for court-order breaches, 16 of them for breaching conditions of youth sentences.

The latest allegations involve even more. The facts are “technical” and virtually innocuous. He didn’t show up for a curfew, was given a break, was arrested again on a breach, took the conviction and soon breached curfew again, the Crown said.

Prosecutors said there was no reason to trust him if he was let go. Lismer agreed and dismissed him from the courtroom, saying he agreed completely.

Again, no hand-holding. “In total, he just has too many non-compliances,” Lismer said.

Exhibit two: “In need of protection”

She’s 16, a ward of CFS and goes missing at will, triggering a police search to find her. She’ll vanish for a few days and turn up at homeless shelters or missions before turning herself in to police. Where she goes, it’s hard to say.

The Crown says she’s “a high-risk victim at high risk of being exploited.”

She’s got a long record of meltdowns, which have lead to convictions for assaulting police officers and uttering threats. Those convictions have led to many, many breaches in less than four years.

Thirteen in all — five for breaking the terms of prior sentences. She’s facing more breach allegations now.

She’s also on charge for an incident at her group home where she threatened to stab the staff, set the place on fire and lock all the doors as she left them inside.

Why? She wanted some Kraft Dinner, the Crown said in opposing her bail plan.

Instead of bloodshed or arson, the girl took off and played cat and mouse with CFS staff and police for about two weeks before turning herself in.

“It was not a serious threat … there was no real confrontation,” her lawyer told Lismer.

“Her issues are largely social-welfare welfare issues,” he said.

She lashes out at people trying to help her, he added.

The plan for her bail was to have her go live in a locked facility where she wouldn’t be able to get out unless escorted by staff. She’d also have access to programming that would help her graduate from a help-program.

Lismer, again, wasn’t buying it.

“I remain unsatisfied,” he said, simply, and dismissed her from the court.

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Burden of (absolute) proof

(Province of Manitoba)

Some members of Manitoba’s NDP government have been on the hot seat lately over the rising cost of Manitoba Hydro’s Bipole III project (see here) — essentially who knew what and when. Members of the Opposition have alleged the NDP was in contempt of the legislature because the old Bipole cost figure was oft-repeated in the house as being considerably less than what it is.

Wednesday, Speaker George Hickes ruled the government was not in contempt. His lengthy consideration is worth looking at:

Here’s how he framed the allegations:

Following the daily prayer on April 15th of 2011, the honourable Official Opposition House Leader (Mrs. Taillieu) rose on a matter of privilege to contend that comments made by the honourable Minister of Finance (Ms. Wowchuk) and the honourable First Minister concerning the projected costs for building Bipole III were at odds with information from Manitoba Hydro and were deliberately misleading. At the conclusion of her remarks, the honourable Official Opposition House Leader moved THAT this House find the government in contempt and that the Minister of Finance and the Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro and the Premier of Manitoba be censured for first withholding information, then providing contradictory information and deliberately attempting to mislead this House by maintaining the cost of Bipole III was $2.2 billion for at least 18 months even though they were aware of contradictory evidence about the true and escalating cost of Bipole III, and as recently as yesterday continued to bring conflicting information to this House.

Hansard, April 20, 2011 pg. 892

In his ruling, Hickes makes the following comments about what must happen to find house privilege was violated and/or a minister/ government is in contempt.

“The ruling of previous Manitoba Speakers have been very clear and consistent. Speakers Walding, Phillips, Rocan and Dacquay have all ruled that in order to find allegations of deliberately–of deliberate misleading the House as prima facie means proving that the member purposely intended to mislead the House by making statements with the knowledge that these statements would mislead.

Therefore, a burden of proof exists that goes beyond speculation, conjecture, but involves providing absolute proof, including a statement of intent by the member involved, that the stated goal is to intentionally mislead the House, as it is possible members may inadvertently mislead the House by unknowingly putting incorrect information on the record.

As I advised the House on April 16th of 2007, providing information that may show the facts are at variance is not the same as providing proof of intent to mislead.

Speaker Dacquay also ruled that without a member admitting in the House that he or she had the stated goal of misleading the House when putting remarks on the record, it is virtually impossible to prove that a member had deliberately intended to mislead the House.

Hansard, Apr. 20, 2011, pg 893

The ‘absolute proof’ comment gave me pause. Consider now what Judges tell jurors in terms of the burden of proof in criminal proceedings:

[5]        It is virtually impossible to prove anything to an absolute certainty, and the Crown is not required to do so. Such a standard would be impossibly high. However, the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt falls much closer to absolute certainty than to probable guilt. You must not find NOA guilty unless you are sure s/he is guilty. Even if you believe that NOA is probably guilty or likely guilty, that is not sufficient. In those circumstances, you must give the benefit of the doubt to NOA and find him/her not guilty because the Crown has failed to satisfy you of his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Canadian Judicial Council: Model Jury Instructions Sec. 5.1 (5)

Just pointing this out.

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Abdul Jemei, the YCJA and fear

(Twitter)

Mike McIntyre of the mighty Freep clicked out a tweet today about a story that appeared Sunday in the broadsheet by Sandy Klowak.

The story had to do with the city’s latest homicide victim, Abdul Jemei, and how even in death, he was able to help his family out.

While the stories about Jemei have focused largely on him, his life and his background, there’s been little said about the people accused of killing him, nor (possibly the most unanswered question of all time), why he was killed.

Doing the usual court scan today, I came across the name of the 16-year-old boy who police have charged with second-degree murder for Jemai’s stabbing death.

My heart went cold.

It’s not the first, second nor even third time this kid’s made the news.

I last wrote about him roughly three years ago in connection to a case that had me shaking my head over the two years I covered it. Here’s how it started.

Boy, 13, charged with raping and beating girl

Winnipeg Free Press
Tue Sep 9 2008
Page: B2
Section: City
Byline: James Turner

A 13-year-old boy accused of raping, repeatedly battering and leaving an Internet “friend” bleeding in a Portage Avenue building has been released from custody.

The boy is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm after he and the 13-year-old victim — a friend he met on the Internet — had been out drinking and hanging out with other friends downtown.

Early Aug. 8, the two wound up in a stairwell of a downtown building where the boy allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward the girl. When she refused to co-operate, he is alleged to have dragged her by the legs down two flights of stairs before repeatedly beating her and viciously sexually assaulting her.

He fled the scene. Police found the girl the next morning and took her to hospital.

Crown attorney Victoria Cornick said the girl suffered broken teeth and severe swelling to her face and other parts of her body.

The boy was arrested the same day and confessed in a videotaped statement to police, Cornick said.

The Crown was opposed to his release, arguing he’s a high-risk individual who won’t obey court orders.

The boy’s lawyer blamed his actions and classification as “high-risk” on his upbringing on a northern reserve where kids are largely unsupervised.

“It’s a universal problem in the community,” Bill Armstrong said.

On the night in question, the boy was said to have been angry over others making fun of his “manhood” and bravery when he refused to fight older boys involved in a street gang.

The youth was released on bail last Friday after provincial court Judge Lee Ann Martin ruled that the boy’s CFS group home could properly supervise him while his case is in the courts.

Martin ordered the boy to abide by a curfew, and to have no contact with the victim, possess no weapons and seek treatment for substance abuse.

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The boy was ultimately convicted for this crime — and the facts only seemed to get worse — in July 2009.

I covered it on radio for the CBC, but can’t find a related web story. Luckily, colleague Gabrielle Giroday was also there.

I’m not joking when I say the efforts that went into sentencing this kid (from the Crown, defence, social-workers, probation officers etc…) were near-legendary.

Countless court hearings to determine the best sentence for him and (ostensibly) the public, followed by judicial reviews of his time in the community after the custodial part of his sentence ended.

Still, he’s been charged more times than a marathoner’s iPod.

The following list is practically boilerplate these days:

  • Teen given every benefit of the youth criminal justice system’s rehabilitative aspects. Check.
  • Multiple accusations of probation/court order breaches. Check.
  • Out on bail and facing weapons and breach charges at the time of the Jemei murder allegation. Check.

Breach Conditions of Youth Criminal Justice Act sentence: Jan 16

Breach conditions of release to reside as directed: 10 to 14 Feb.

Possess weapon for a dangerous purpose: Jan 16 (he was handed a five-year mandatory weapons prohibition for the sexual assault)

While I can take some comfort that Mr. Jemei may not have died completely in vain, I feel horrible for his family.

And some small part of me (the pessimistic, fearful one) can’t help but wonder how many other kids like the one accused here roam our streets with virtual impunity.

The problem is that we just don’t ever seem to know until it’s too late.

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Major crimes: a week in review V

Jessica Bondar (CBC)

Nothing like starting the week with a quick re-hash of the last. We all have traditions, tho.

First, a positive, from the University of Winnipeg’s Uniter:

Partnership to provide legal assistance to low-income families

The University of Winnipeg has announced that, in partnership with the University of Manitoba, they have opened the Legal Help Centre in the MacNamara North Building on Spence Street. The centre, staffed by University of Winnipeg Global College and criminal justice students, students from the University of Manitoba’s faculties of Law and Social Work and volunteer lawyers, is part of an initiative to provide legal assistance to disadvantaged members of the community. People with household incomes under $50,000 a year will have access to free legal advice, and the centre also offers drop-in services and workshops.

This, given the area the U of Dub exists in, is a great idea. Even from the position that legal advice will be offered to those in the area, many of whom would likely meet the guidelines for access.

2] Those interested about learning more about Gladue courts can, thanks to the Robson Hall Law Department, watch Jonathan Rudin explain them and what they’ve been able to do for Toronto. The future is now. Check it out.

3] The Province finally announced a public inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, just when one thought there was no way that was going to happen with an election looming. Even the fine print is promising, with the judge overseeing it being given a sweeping mandate to investigate whatever he sees fit. No dates announced, but justice Ted Hughes’s report must be complete in just over a year from now. Another Sinclair matter (an inquest) — that of Brian Sinclair — is still pending.

4] A number of suspects in one of the Winnipeg Police Service’s recent major drug investigations have been rearrested and directly indicted into court for trial. This case — just by virtue of the characters involved — is very interesting. More to come.

5] Convicted sex-offender Kenneth Rhodes appeals his conviction. Claims wrongful conviction. Grinding of teeth can be heard all over the country. I’m a big fan of Christie Blatchford.

6] Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun has a very interesting feature on the underworld politik of cross-border crime and why some are choosing to face justice in the U.S. instead of fighting the charges. Seems those big-ticket jail terms do make an impact.

7] The winner of last week’s story containing the most heartless allegations… But this one’s equally as bad.

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