Attempted murder: the prosecution’s uphill battle

(Reblogged from the Winnipeg Free Press ‘Crime Scene’ blog, minor revisions for formatting and clarity)

(USVI)
(USVI)

 “Ironically, had Ms. W died from the shooting it would have been easier to prove murder, because that can be done in two ways. Including the less onerous route of meaning to cause bodily harm that the accused knows is likely to cause death and is reckless whether death ensues or not.” Justice Chris Martin

Attempted murder: those two words, strung together, strike fear to any warm-blooded heart for sure.

Sadly, the charge seems to be more frequently seen in Winnipeg than ever before.

In fact, in what our police service says is a city where serious crime is dropping, attempted murder is one of the only categories of violent criminal activity that’s on the rise.

And while on the surface of things, a case may appear to be one of an attempt to kill, by the time it goes through the court wringer and scrutiny, I’d be willing to bet most, if not all, are never made out to be attempted murder.

An exclusive report I wrote last week about Jared Smoke‘s trial is educational on how difficult attempted murder is to prove, and the uphill battle prosecutors have to try and demonstrate a suspect’s intent and state of mind in all but the most clear-cut cases.

(Perhaps ones where a police officer might hear an assault suspect blurt out: “I’m going to kill you!,” before an arrest takes place stand out as the most obvious.)

Smoke was acquitted after a trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench. But he was found guilty of several lesser, but included offences, aggravated assault and discharge firearm with intent to wound.

The report in the newspaper was cut down substantially to make it fit in the paper, but the acquittal on the most serious charge raised questions about how this could have happened given the facts revealed in the article.

Out of fairness, I thought it would be a good idea to reproduce virtually all of Justice Chris Martin’s decision verbatim in order that the general public who couldn’t be there for the decision could see the systematic nature of how he arrived at it.

Warning: the facts are somewhat graphic in spots. It’s an awful case of cruel violence no matter how you slice it.

Smoke is to be sentenced on the charges he was found guilty of later this year.

It will be interesting to see the position prosecutors Daniel Chaput and Adam Bergen take on how much time he should serve.

Note: names of the victim and witnesses have been redacted by me because they’re not germaine to the decision overall. I urge you to read the explanation of the W.D. analysis as set out in the first link below. 

Justice Chris Martin, March 13, 2014 Decision in R v. Jared Smoke – Attempted murder trial (included offences of aggravated assault and discharge firearm at issue, as are several weapons-related charges.)

Martin, J:

“Determining Mr. Smoke’s culpability involves an assessment of both non-contentious evidence and the reliability and credibility of several witnesses, including Mr. Smoke, to which a W.D. analysis must be applied.

For the most part, my consideration of the charges and discussion of the evidence will be limited to the legal issues before me. At this point, I intend to outline what I mostly consider to be the non-contentious evidence surrounding or related the shooting.

Later, in the analysis portion in this decision, I will refer more specifically to the elements of the offences, the defence of accident and the more specific evidence that needs to be considered to determine the individual issues.

Turning first, then, to the non-contentious facts:

In the fall of 2009, Ms. W was living in a suite on Furby Street in Winnipeg with her two infant children, aged about four months and two years. Mr. Smoke was her sometimes-boyfriend. He was the biological father of the four-month old. Mr. Smoke would frequently stay at Ms. W’s suite. When he did, he slept in her bedroom at the back of the suite.

In relation to Mr. Smoke, Mr. E.P. was also staying in the suite that October. His girlfriend, E.C., would come over and became friends with Ms. W.

Weeks before the shooting, Mr. Smoke and E.P were together when they got jumped by a group of men, perhaps part of a street gang. After, for his protection, Mr. Smoke acquired a .204 Ruger bolt-action rifle. The rifle was capable of holding one bullet in the firing chamber and one more in the magazine. He had it altered by cutting off part of the barrel on one end, and the stock on the other end. Due to the length of the barrel alone, or the overall length of the rifle – by law, it was a prohibited weapon.

From my handling of the weapon, it is fairly heavy and cumbersome and especially cumbersome to hold with one hand because of the way the stock has been altered or fashioned into a pistol-grip. The bolt action is designed for right-hand operation. The safety is a small lever beside the bolt. To switch the safety off, it must be manually pushed forward to the firing position.

Mr. Smoke did not have bullets for the rifle when he acquired it. So at his request, E.P. arranged for E.C. to buy some on her home reserve. Mr. Smoke testified that he carried the rifle with him, loaded, in a bag or sometimes down his pant leg.

On Oct. 21, 2009, Mr. Smoke, EP and EC were at Ms. W’s with her and her children. Another relation of Mr. Smoke, a man named Darrel, was also there. It was late in the afternoon. Mr. Smoke and Ms. W got into a heated physical altercation over his having another relationship with another woman. He admitted to beating Ms. W in the living room before dragging her to her bedroom where he was going to beat her more.

At the bedroom, she was on the floor near the door threshold. It appears that her head and torso were in the room and her legs out of the room. Mr. Smoke punched her several more times and kicked her. He then quickly turned and got the .204 rifle from a chest of drawers or a closet in the room. He said he had put it there a few hours earlier, when he had a nap in the room. It had been in a bag.

When he turned back to face her as she lay in the doorway area, the gun fired. She was shot in her right arm which she held up in front of her head in a defensive, blocking manner. The gun would have been angled downward when it discharged. The bullet struck her forearm and then her head.

The medical report noted massive destruction to her right forearm, significant soft tissue defect, major nerve damage to the muscles supplying her forearm and hand and arterial injury. The bullet then apparently glanced by her right cheek, right skull area, causing a scalp wound and fracture of both her cheek and skull.

EP and EC were in the bedroom, along with the four-month-old infant when the shooting happened. EP saw what happened but EC did not as she purposely looked away during the assault. Everyone then fled the suite, leaving Ms. W in a pool of blood, the four-month-old on the bed and the two-year-old wandering about.

Mr. Smoke says he tossed the rifle in a nearby dumpster. A neighbour heard the screaming from the suite and a woman yelling, ‘no.’ (inaudible). She also heard a loud bang. She immediately called police. The police broke into the suite and along with paramedics, attended to Mr. W and the children. After, police searched the suite and found several items of interest.

One, a box of .204 bullets … under a cushion on the couch in the living room. Two, a .22 bullet on the fireplace mantel in the living room. Three, a loaded, single-shot, sawed off, .22-calibre rifle in the dresser in Ms. W’s bedroom. They also recovered the .204 calibre rifle from the dumpster. This rifle had one spent bullet casing in the firing chamber, and five live bullets in the magazine.

Mr. Smoke turned himself into police custody about a month later. His police interview and statement was admitted as part of the Crown’s case. While he did not say much in the statement, he did say that he did not intend to kill her, and that it all happened very fast.

Since his arrest about 4 1/2 years ago, Mr. Smoke and Ms. W had many discussions, some about this event. Most notably, police intercepted a telephone call from Mr. Smoke to Ms. W on Feb. 4, 2011, days before his preliminary inquiry. He told her that, and I quote: ‘All you got to do is say it was an accident, it was an honest accident, I love him, it was my fault. He shouldn’t be in jail.’

And he told her what he would say. In cross-examination, Mr. Smoke agreed that passages from the transcript of the intercepted call sound like he did not want her to tell the truth. However he maintained that the point of the phone call was to encourage her to tell the truth.

Finally, by the time of trial, Ms. W mostly recovered from her injuries but she is left with some residual effects and scarring.

With this background in mind, I turn to the consideration of the analysis of the issues.

The first issue in the first portion of the analysis then, is what if any offence has the Crown proven Mr. Smoke committed by handling the .204-calibre rifle when it discharged?

The Crown position is that it’s proven, through evidence that a common-sense inference from the proven facts, that Mr. Smoke specifically intended to kill Ms. W. through the rifle discharge. The facts they rely on include:

1] Mr. Smoke was assaulting Ms. W when he dragged her into the bedroom to continue the assault.
2] That he was ‘seeing red,’ so to speak, in terms of his anger at her.
3] That he retrieved the rifle from where he put it.
4] That he was holding the rifle in a shooting position with his right hand on the pistol grip and finger on the trigger, using his left had to support or hold the rifle by the fore stock.
5] That the safety of the rifle was disengaged so the rifle was in a firing position.
6] The rifle was aimed downward at Ms. W’s head area when it discharged.
7] After shooting he fled the scene without any attempt to check on her, or help her and disposed of the rifle.

The Crown says the inferences to be drawn from these facts are that the only reason for dragging her to the bedroom was to access the gun that he knew was there. And, in shooting her at near point-blank range toward the head, he intended to kill her. Further, his post-offence conduct supports this inference in that it demonstrates the shooting was not an accident.

They say that Mr. Smoke’s and Ms. W’s testimony to the effect the shooting was an accident is a fabrication and both inconsistent with the evidence and logic.

The defence says the opposite. This was an accident, and as such no liability should flow from it. They say his police statement and his testimony supports this, or at the very least ,raises a reasonable doubt. He was trying to leave the bedroom with the rifle when Ms. W – as she testified – grabbed for the rifle and it discharged accidentally. Mr. Smoke would not have known it was loaded because he stored it in a closet or drawer unloaded, just before he took his nap a few hours earlier.

I now turn to Mr. Smoke’s testimony.

The classic WD analysis must be applied to Mr. Smoke’s testimony and police statement. To cut to the quick respecting steps one and two, I neither believe, nor am I left with a reasonable doubt about several key points.

First, while I accept he dragged Ms. W to the bedroom to continue the assault, I reject that he did so to be out of the childrens’ or plain sight or for privacy. Clearly he was angry. He wanted to continue beating her and she was no match for him. There was yelling and screaming for all to hear. So loud, a neighbour could hear it.

Tellingly, Mr. Smoke retrieved the .204-calibre rifle almost immediately after dragging Ms. W to the bedroom. In other words, whatever physical beating he wanted to continue, it wasn’t much. I do not accept that he wanted to continue the beating only in private. Everyone old enough to understand what was going on in that apartment knew what was going on. There was no real reason to drag her to the bedroom except to get the rifle and to use it in some manner as part of his overall assault upon her.

Second, I reject his evidence that he unloaded the rifle before he napped so that it would be safely stored, and his evidence that he did not know the calibre 204 bullets were in the rifle is nonsensical. I say this for three main reasons.

1] It is inconsistent with his testimony that a) he carried the weapon everywhere he went for his protection because he’d been jumped and shot at weeks before and b) he arranged to get the bullets … and they were for the .204 rifle he kept. Clearly it was his rifle and his ammunition. The two go hand in hand. It is far more logical that the stored the rifle loaded while he slept so, if necessary, it was ready for its purpose – for his defence.

2] Further, he testified that the unloaded the weapon at another location and he brought it to the apartment unloaded. This would mean he was effectively unarmed when he made his way over to Ms. W’s, however he came there. And thus the whole point of having a sawed-off gun for protection from others who shot at him before would have been defeated. This also makes no sense.

3] To accept his evidence would be to imply that someone else in the apartment got the rifle from his bag, fully loaded it, cocked it by positioning the bolt, put the safety in the firing position and replaced it where he had put it all while he napped two feet away or had a brief shower. This is farfetched.

Further, none of Ms. W, EP or EC said they did this. (Darrel) did not testify but it would be pure speculation, without a hint of evidence, that he did this. Others would have seen it.

Thus, it follows on these three points that I also reject his evidence that the rifle was not in the bag immediately before the shooting. On the contrary, I find that he removed it from the bag at that point.

Third, I reject his evidence that he had said just before the shooting, ‘f-k this, I’m leaving.’ This is nothing but a fabrication to support his claim that he did not intend to use the rifle as part of the assault. If it were true, there was no reason for him to obtain the rifle out of the bag. If he was leaving the apartment at that moment, there was no reason not to take it sealed in the bag, the same way he brought it into the apartment even if he had concealed it, on other occasions, down his pants.

This is not a small detail that would be overlooked in a state of anger. Further, he admitted in cross-examination that he may have said other things to Ms. W when he grabbed the gun, things such as: ‘is this what you want?’

Fourth, for the reasons I have mentioned and those that follow, I reject his evidence that he did not pull the trigger but it accidentally discharged when Ms. W grabbed the gun. He admitted his finger was on the trigger as he held the rifle, the bolt was closed, the weapon was cocked and the safety was off. Handling the rifle the way he described is completely contrary to his evidence that he was safety-minded with the weapon in the suite.

Further, if Ms. W did grab the gun, or grabbed at the gun three times as she swears – or even once – Mr. Smoke could have easily been able to move beyond her reach as he stood above her or instantly slipped his finger off the trigger. As well, she said she reached up for the rifle, thus it must have been pointed toward her as opposed to hanging down beside his leg toward the ground, as one might have expected, given the nature of the altered stock and pistol grip and its weight.

… this angle at the point of firing is also consistent with forensic evidence.

Finally, her reaction to defensively putting up her right arm means she instinctively perceived danger from his holding the rifle despite his testimony that the way he handled the rifle gave no cause for (inaudible).

Having rejected his evidence as I have, I must also consider what other evidence there is, essentially the third step of the WD analysis.

I start by noting what is likely fairly obvious at this point: I reject Ms. W’s evidence that she grabbed at the rifle three times and it discharged accidentally.

She says she lied to police and lied at the preliminary inquiry. She now says her trial testimony is the truth. On critical points, it is not. The evidence of her earlier versions, the reason for saying what she did when she did, the evidence of the intercepted call from Mr. Smoke to Ms. W during which they discussed their evidence, the context of their relationship which included her accepting fault for being shot because she should not have started the argument – all point to her trial testimony respecting how she got shot as being fiction.

This is distinct from occasional moments of spontaneous honesty that she had in testifying on some critical matters, such as her testifying that she put her arm up for defence.

So what remains?

First, there’s the non-contentious evidence that I referred to earlier. Most material is that Ms. W was shot with the .204-calibre rifle by Mr. Smoke. Second, there’s no credible evidence of anyone else in the suite holding or possessing that weapon or ammunition during any of the relevant timeframe surrounding the shooting.

Third, I have rejected both (Mr.) Smoke’s and (Ms.) W’s evidence of an accidental discharge. Finally, all of this is inconsistent with EP’s evidence he saw everything that took place in the bedroom. He was clear Ms. W did not grab the rifle just before she was shot. I accept this testimony.

Thus on the evidence I have accepted, and in part for reasons set out in the WD analysis I will not repeat, I find that Mr. Smoke possessed the loaded .204 calibre firearm when he entered the suite, that he left it loaded in a bag in a closet or in a drawer in the bedroom and that he retrieved the loaded weapon during the course of beating Ms. W. Further, in the end, there is no credible evidence to support the notion that the gun discharged accidentally.

Indeed there is good evidence and strong inferences to find Mr. Smoke pulled the trigger and meant to do so. In rejecting his and Ms. W’s evidence I find that Mr. Smoke pulled the trigger that caused the shot to Ms. W.

I pause to note that I would have been satisfied based on the Crown’s evidence and submission that the shooting was not accidental even without EP’s evidence. Further, to be clear, I find that neither pulling the trigger, nor where the rifle was pointed with and fired was an accident.

Having rejected, factually, the defence of accident – in other words having been satisfied by the Crown as to the requisite elements in that particular respect, I need not analyze whether or how such defence could have been available to Mr. Smoke, in law, with specific offences he faces especially considering how the shooting occurred while he was committing other unlawful acts namely assault and possession of a loaded prohibited weapon.

The issue, thus becomes what do I find him anything guilty of? The onus remains on the Crown to prove all of the essential elements of the charges, including his intent or state of mind. Three comments are warranted at this point.

First, while I have rejected his explanation of the shooting, I cannot use that rejection to find an inference that he must have intended to kill her.

Second, I disagree with the Crown’s position that his conduct after the shooting points to the offence he committed. I need not rely on his post-offence conduct to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he pulled the trigger and it was not an accident. This post-offence conduct evidence is also not properly available to consider whether he had the specific intent to kill on firing of the weapon.

And in any event, I find his flight and tossing of the weapon to be equivocal. It is not evidence solely of consciousness of guilt. It is equally indicative of panic knowing that he’d shot Ms. W.

As to the intercepted call evidence, a number of competing inferences arise, but it clear that the phone call was essentially aimed at whether he pulled the trigger, not what his intention was in so doing.

Having made the findings that I have, on the evidence that I’ve accepted, Again, I not need consider this aspect further.

Third, regarding the most serious charge, the attempted murder – it is among the most difficult for the Crown to prove. Because there is only one the of state of mind that will suffice to ground such a conviction. Of course, the Supreme Court of Canada has made this clear in R v [inaudible] and other cases.

As demonstrated by the precedents referred by both counsel, the specific facts, background and nuances of a particular case are critical as to whether proof of a specific intent to kill has been made out.

Ironically, had Ms. W died from the shooting it would have been easier to prove murder, because that can be done in two ways. Including the less onerous route of meaning to cause bodily harm that the accused knows is likely to cause death and is reckless whether death ensues or not.

Having noted these cautions, on my findings, there remains a reasonable inference that Mr. Smoke intended to kill Ms. W. Yet when the Crown must rely on inference to establish the state of mind for attempted murder, it is all the more difficult because one must also ask, on the proven facts, whether there is another reasonable inference to which the benefit of the doubt must be given to the accused.

In this case, I find that there is such an inference here. Specifically, that he meant to use the gun in the assault and in doing so he discharged the gun but without specifically meaning to kill her. Clearly, the shooting took place during a violent argument that escalated and took place very quickly.

This, in the context of the relationship generally, and more specifically his comments at the time of, ‘f–k this,’ or ‘f–k this, is this what you want’ and his response to police that he did not intend to kill her raise the spectre of a plausible inference that he meant to shoot her, but without the specific intent to kill her.

Thus, to paraphrase the Supreme Court of Canada in [inaudible], respecting the meaning of reasonable doubt, I am not sure that he specifically intended to kill her. And as such he’s entitled to the reasonable count on this issue.

I find him not guilty of attempted murder.

What remains is … ”

Martin goes on to convict Smoke of aggravated assault and discharge firearm with intent to wound. He will be sentenced later this year, also by Martin.

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Natasha Moar homicide: An accounting and some questions

(Natasha Linda Moar/Facebook)
(Natasha Linda Moar/Facebook)

“See this girl she was treated like a nobody noone came to help her fight in court,not one person came forward to say hey i seen him abuse her.where was everyone fat mouths when she needed help today.there was no fucken justice today not even a fair trial…56 months for taking a life so brutally.” — Relative of Natasha Moar

And in the end, When it came to investigating Natasha Linda Moar’s homicide, RCMP and the Crown were ultimately left with two stories: The one told by her living, breathing killer and his family, and another told by her lifeless, battered body.

What follows I’m presenting for two reasons. One, I believe there has to be some complete record of what was put on the record about this case. A 400 word newspaper story, while adequate for many reports, fails here. And the initial RCMP press release obviously is useless to come to any understanding.

(And that release could be considered forthcoming by today’s standard of police to-public disclosure of most criminal events).

Two: I completely understand the need for plea deals in the criminal justice system. I’m just not sure I fully comprehend the one that saw Leslie Grant McDonald, 27, receive an effective sentence of five years for manslaughter in connection with her death, with 56 months left to serve going forward.

It bears remembering at the outset: Moar was pronounced dead in hospital on July 12, 2009, nearly four years ago. The case came to a sudden conclusion Monday after McDonald elected to plead guilty on the day his trial was set to begin. His preliminary hearing concluded in May 2011, two years ago.

Here’s how things proceeded Monday in the Dauphin Court of Queen’s Bench, with senior Crown attorney Dale Harvey representing the state, and veteran defence lawyer Roberta Campbell acting for McDonald. Justice Robert Cummings is the presiding judge.

The case begins with McDonald freely and voluntarily pleading guilty to manslaughter for his former common-law’s death. The plea is accepted by Cummings, with the usual caution that the judge is not bound by any joint-recommendation presented to the court and can impose any sentence he feels is fit.

Harvey begins by explaining the matter was set for trial, and that no pre-sentencing or Gladue report examining McDonald’s background will be presented. Cummings is told McDonald has been in touch with an elder in his home community of Crane River — and it’s possible arrangements will be made for him to apply to go to a Correctional Service of Canada “healing lodge” after he gets to Stony Mountain.

Harvey explains the joint-recommendation which the court will hear about factors in the relevant Gladue factors which apply to McDonald’s case, and the sentence being sought [which isn’t revealed at the outset] has been adjusted “downward” from what the Crown would ordinarily seek in similar circumstances based on that consideration.

There are no victim impact statements filed. The Crown explains one of the sides of Moar’s family have what was termed an “acrimonious” relationship with justice officials due to their “lack of faith in the justice system to do its job properly.”

Harvey then begins relaying the facts of the case for Cummings.

The morning of July 12, 2009: McDonald’s mom’s common-law calls RCMP to say Moar was unconscious and not breathing “due to cardiac arrest.” “That’s how it was reported,” Harvey says. The caller relays that Moar was “cold and stiff” and CPR was not being initiated.

RCMP Const. St. Cyr of the Ste. Rose du Lac detachment — located 72 kilometres from Crane River, is dispatched to a suite at the Crane River “elderly person’s home.”

The community is some distance away from the detachment, about 70 k.m.

At 12:37 p.m., two rural paramedics went to the suite — getting there before St. Cyr — and radios that Moar “was breathing” and would be taken to the Ste. Rose hospital for treatment.

RCMP are told no police attendance is required.

“That’s still confusing from the Crown’s perspective,” Harvey says. “As it was clear that Ms. Moar had been dead for some time.”

Around 1:52 p.m. St. Cyr and his partner are then at the hospital on an unrelated matter when the partner is approached by the on-call ER doctor. Moar was pronounced dead, the cop is told, and the doctor believed the death “was suspicious” as she had a number of bruises on her face and legs.

The partner tells St. Cyr this and he takes off to Crane River. The partner then looks at Moar in the exam room and noted she has “obvious signs of trauma” and bruising on her face and body.

2:43 p.m. — St. Cyr arrives in Crane River, and finds the local band constable there securing the crime scene. The band constable says when he arrived there, there were people inside the suite attending to Moar. He took photos of the scene and spoke with a number of people. “Quite frankly, he did his best to keep people out of the actual crime scene in and of itself,” Harvey says.

The photos are given to the RCMP. The band cop “did a remarkable job in the circumstances,” with limited training, court is told. He “had enough common sense to try and preserve the scene as much as possible,” says Harvey.

St. Cyr then begins the interview process. He first speaks to the man who called the RCMP earlier and McDonald’s mother. They were sitting at a picnic table just outside the residence. St. Cyr noted it appeared there had been a party of sorts at the table the evening before.

At 2:47, the investigation takes a major turn when St. Cyr arrests Leslie McDonald for second-degree murder and assault causing bodily harm. Asked if he understood his rights, McDonald replied: “I had a fight with her last night — we were drinking.”

At 3 p.m. he’s again told the RCMP warning of his rights and police caution. McDonald says he understands. “Yeah, but can I make a statement?,” he asks.

At 3:14, McDonald and St. Cyr start talking. The cop only has his notebook and is recording the comments as best he can on the fly.

“About the murder, man, I don’t know. I agree that I assaulted her but after we were done fighting we blacked out. We came to later, we had sex. She wanted me out of the room. I went in the living room, watched TV, fell asleep. I got up, looked outside, it was daylight. I could hear her gurgling in the bedroom. At that time I didn’t think nothing of it. I fell asleep again. I got up around 10-10:30, went to the washroom. Then went to the bedroom to check up on her. She had brown puke coming out of her mouth, out of her nose. I started to shake her, to wake her up. I tried to get an answer from her. I put my hand on her stomach to see if she was breathing. I checked her pulse. She had no pulse. I know CPR. I started it, opened her mouth, removed the brown stuff. I tried to make her gag. I panicked, yelled at her. I tried calling my mom four or five times. I got in my car, went to my mum’s … told her what was going on. She came back with me to the house. My mom tried calling people as [her common-law] called the ambulance…”

“I just stayed back and waited outside with my mother,” St. Cyr recorded McDonald as saying.

At 3:23, another cop comes to relieve St. Cyr and he drives McDonald back to the Ste. Rose detachment.

At 5:00, McDonald spoke with a lawyer who calls back at 6:17. They talk till 6:40 p.m.

Meanwhile, an RCMP forensic specialist examines Moar at the hospital. He notes there’s some blood on her face and ear, bruising on face, a slap mark on her cheek, bruising on her right wrist and a discolouration below her knees.

(The remoteness of Crane River, located on the right of this map)
(The remoteness of Crane River, located on the right of this map)

That afternoon, McDonald’s mom’s common-law also gives a statement. Says he was at home that morning when Leslie “arrived screaming and yelling that Natasha was not breathing and he wanted his mom to help.” He went to the old folks home 25 minutes later after being called to the scene as well. He says he went in and found Moar on the bed, no pulse. He says he called the hospital and spoke to a clerk who told him to call for an ambulance. He tells police McDonald, Moar and two others — including McDonald’s dad — were drinking at the residence the night before. He says McDonald told him the two other men left there and McDonald said he went to bed around 3:30 a.m. He also said McDonald disclosed fighting with Moar but said they made up.

Leslie McDonald’s mom told police a similar story, saying her son came to her home yelling and screaming, that Moar wasn’t breathing and had a cold forehead.

The next day, an RCMP corporal with the Serious Crime Unit comes to interview McDonald on video. McDonald discloses he and Moar had been drinking beer and whiskey, smoking hash and doing some cocaine for most of July 11, the day before she died. An argument they had led to a fight, he says. “He admitted to slapping her many times” with “full force” as well as knocking her down at least three or four times. He denied using any weapons, a closed fist or kicking Moar. After their fight, she calmed down somewhat and asked him to get her something cold.”

He told RCMP he brought her two packs of frozen meat to put on her swollen face and “at that point realized he had gone too far.”

The meat was exchanged for a bag of frozen French fries. He says they had sex at 12 a.m. and afterwards he left the room to watch TV. He woke up around 3 a.m. and says he could hear her gurgling “like she was having trouble breathing but thought it was nothing out of the ordinary.” McDonald continued to watch TV until her fell asleep again. At 10 a.m he says he awoke and found her lying in bad with her hands up by her head — saw vomit, cleared it away and tried to induce more vomiting and CPR. “He knew then that she was gone,” Cummings was told of his statement.

McDonald admitted at one point in the fight, he had pushed Moar down and she fell onto a coffee mug which broke beneath her. She had also hit her head on a “fabric covered recliner” in the bedroom. “He was unsure if she has hit her head on anything else.”

McDonald then admitted to using a dish towel to snap at her in the face — a blow he knew had hurt her. He also says he noted blood by her head and her pillow. There was another blood pool of blood seen, but McDonald says it was his.

This same day, Dr. Charles Littman conducts the autopsy on Moar, with RCMP in attendance. More on this below.

July 14: RCMP execute two search warrants — two days after Moar’s death. One is for the crime scene and another for a vehicle outside the old folks home.

McDonald’s dad also gives a statement. It was his home where Moar died. He says he had been sitting outside with the couple and others as they drank rye and Labatt’s Lite beer. While McDonald and Moar were outside, they appeared to be fine, not fighting. He says Moar went inside first, followed by McDonald. “It was still daylight,” when they went in, he says.

Another man present at the table also says the couple “seemed to be fine.” He says he, a woman and another man left around 9 p.m. on July 11.

Harvey tells the court: As in so many violent cases, the description of the crime scene has varied widely. “It has been the source of several unfortunate rumours throughout the community as to people having cleaned up the scene. It’s obvious, I think, from the photographs taken by the community constable and the police that very little, if anything was done to clean up the scene and there’s significant evidence of a fight and trauma apparent from the photographs.”

He then tells court a database check shows McDonald had been charged with assault with a weapon in 2008 with respect to a suspected attack on Moar. “Ultimately that allegation went nowhere as she declined to testify. So no conviction arising from that.” The allegation was McDonald had hit Moar with a bottle in the head. At the time of her death, he was also wanted in Calgary where he was charged for mischief but skipped out on court. He has no convictions whatsoever, Harvey tells Cummings.

Harvey then moves on to the findings of Dr. Littman’s autopsy.

Littman found “multiple layers of trauma all over the entire body, primarily the head and face.”

  • 27 areas of trauma to her head
  • 18 to her torso
  • 11 to her upper limbs
  • 14 to her lower limbs
  • 14 to her hands, with some described as “offensive” wounds from her fighting back.

The degree of force, Littman found, was at the “severe” end — missing the mark on the “extreme” end of the spectrum because her skull wasn’t fractured.

Her head injuries were consistent of being struck with fists or the open heels of hands. She also has “linear abrasions” on her body “suggestive of dragging of the body,” Harvey says. Her liver had a small laceration.

She had sustained a large “acute” subdural haemorrhage which was attributed as the cause of death. It’s possible a hit in the head with the heel of the hand caused it. The pathologist also found a prior subdural haemorrhage which had “resolved naturally.”

A toxicology report found significant levels of alcohol consumption and traces of cocaine and marijuana in Moar’s blood.

Having presented the autopsy findings, Harvey then moves to the point: “We know there has been previous incidents of violence,” he says, telling Cummings that several people RCMP spoke to in the investigation recalled seeing Moar in the community showing “signs of trauma” and sometimes seeking shelter “briefly.”

“All of which of course — the nature of the relationship begs the question as how someone could do this to someone they supposedly love is beyond comprehension to most people. In our society … and I’m sure the court would agree — this is unfortunately an all too common event that leads to tragic results.” Their dysfunctional relationship and substance abuse fuelled the tragedy, Harvey said.

He then moved on to talk about the Criminal Code sentencing objective as set out in 718 [e]:

“To provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community.”

This was unlikely to happen here in this case, Harvey suggested.

“There is nothing that will happen here today that will make up for the sense of loss ….”

He then presented the aggravating factors of the case: Spousal abuse being the first and most concerning. He pointed to 718.2 [ii] as a statutory aggravating factor:

“(ii) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused the offender’s spouse or common-law partner,”

He then pointed to factors in mitigation for McDonald, restating his lack of prior criminal record and the fact he pleaded guilty.

The Crown then went on to talk about the “extreme distrust” and “animosity” Moar’s family has of the system, noting how an altercation at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing required extra security to be brought in for the cancelled trial and sentencing.

They may not recognize the criminal justice system is a “place of last resort,” Hervey said.

“We deal with events after they have happened and that the criminal justice system cannot undo what has been done. And that the prevention of similar tragedies begins in the home as well as society generally. Where and when it works, there’s no need for the criminal justice system,” he said.

Still, he told Cummings, we must still try to do what’s possible within the law. He then relays the joint recommendation of five years, saying it’s within the range of sentences when Gladue factors are accounted for.

THE DEFENCE

Lawyer Roberta Campbell noted McDonald had only elected to have a trial given the nature of the abusive relationship he and Moar shared.

It wasn’t just a “one-sided” volatility — “but in fact bent both ways,” she said. Campbell noted how McDonald had once had one of his tattoos bitten off by Moar in a fight and also had been attacked by her to the point he needed stitches on his head and legs.

“It was just an incredibly volatile, violent and unfortunately, (a) relationship based around substance abuse … it really is a tragedy, a really great tragedy.”

McDonald’s version of their final fight was again put forward: He says the fight began as verbal, he tried to leave and she held on to him and a fistfight broke out. “this was a fight, a brawl .. initially he was trying to extract himself from the situation and it deteriorated.”

After making up, they were getting along again. Campbell noted how he ran for help, didn’t run from and co-operated with police. “He didn’t run away. He was completely forthright about what happened,” she said. McDonald wanted to plead guilty “immediately” he felt so bad — but agreed not to on legal advice to wait until the medical reports were in and what the cause of death was.

“It was obviously one of the slaps (that killed her), it was hard,” she says.

Campbell reiterated how he was just 23 when it happened. McDonald, born and raised in Crane River, was granted bail and was released to the Teen Challenge program for 18 months. His troubles with alcohol led him back to the streets — where in Winnipeg he was stabbed in the face, and needed 40 stitches. McDonald also faced bail breach charges, which he was set to deal with after the manslaughter sentencing was over.

“When he does mess up, it’s always with alcohol,” Campbell said.

Offered a chance to speak, McDonald indicated he was at a loss for words. He said he was happy the matter was getting dealt with.

“I’ve waited a long time for this time to come,” he said.

———

We know what the court decided, so I won’t repeat it.

I want to be clear: None of this is meant as a criticism of the Crown, the court or the other players involved in resolving this case. It bears repeating Harvey’s comment from above, because I agree with him. I’m also not presenting it to play up the horrific violence Moar was subjected to.

“We deal with events after they have happened and that the criminal justice system cannot undo what has been done. And that the prevention of similar tragedies begins in the home as well as society generally. Where and when it works, there’s no need for the criminal justice system.”

But I’m honestly trying to consider the evidence as presented to determine how five years was arrived at. I don’t know what to think about it. It’s clear Moar’s family isn’t happy with the result, and others too are questioning what message the sentence sends.

But aside from that, there’s other important questions here too.

Such as: What intervention and resources were available to Moar given the remote and tiny — and clearly tight-knit — community in which she and McDonald lived? If others saw her bruised and battered time and again, was there something they should or could have done? This isn’t the first domestic homicide case in recent memory where a paucity of resources was a factor to consider.

As well, there’s obvious questions about the remoteness of RCMP from this community, which may have played a role in the evidence-gathering and investigative process. How is a band constable with limited training supposed to handle a homicide scene in a community where he’s likely to be slammed for playing the heavy, if he/she should do that?

Members of Moar’s family have an “acrimonious” view of the justice system and no faith it would fulfil its purpose Why is that? What can be done to fix it, if anything?

These are just a few of the questions which this case brings to mind for me.

Maybe they’re ones Manitoba’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee might undertake to examine.

Chris Campbell: Another tragic case of under-resourced mental health/criminal justice services?

Christoper Mackenzie Campbell
(Christoper Mackenzie Campbell/WPS)

While many facts remain yet to be proven or tested, it’s pretty clear something appears to have gone horribly wrong with Christopher Mackenzie Campbell.

Campbell, at age 42, currently stands accused in Winnipeg’s latest homicide — believed to be that of a relative, possibly his mother — in a home on Alexander Avenue this weekend.

It was a rare situation in which police believe Campbell left the city in a family vehicle which is linked to the victim, one located just outside of Regina on Sunday. Campbell made his way into that city and was taken into custody downtown.

He was to be returned to Winnipeg forthwith.

Court records show a charge of second-degree murder is pending. The victim’s identity, including her age, has not been released.

Police this weekend said the following in announcing they were looking for him:

“Campbell has been treated for a mental illness in the past.

Information has been received that he has not been taking his medications as required.

Caution should be used if approached by Campbell as his behaviour may be unpredictable and he may be violent.”

I fear Campbell’s case may end up being another of those sad ones which seem to crop up each and every year.

Those ones where justice system efforts to assist and supervise ultimately clash, fizzle or peter out due to the poor state of urgent mental-health related resources in Manitoba, a pressing topic I only recently wrote about.

In any event, some background:

An incident in summer 2008 ultimately seemed to force Campbell’s hand to seek out help for his issues.

His lawyer at the time called his arrest at that time “a blessing in disguise” as Campbell may not have been diagnosed or sought help if it hadn’t happened.

It was on July 6, 2008 that Campbell approached a total stranger — a landscaper from Shelmerdine garden centre — outside Campbell’s apartment block at 400 Assiniboine Avenue.

He walked up to the gardener and asked him not to use any “power equipment” on the lot — a request to which the victim says he must use a power blower to do his job.

“If you use any power equipment, I’m going to get a sniper rifle and shoot you in the head,” Campbell replied.

He also tossed the glass of water he was holding at the landscaper.

The bizarre threat was overheard by an independent witness.

Police are called, they arrive quickly. Campbell declines to speak with a lawyer while in their custody.

But in his time with police he makes several other concerning comments, including how the interviewing officers seem like “dolphins out of water,” that “he’s a nice guy, almost God-like” and that one officer’s badge number, “is similar to the Mayan’s calendar that adds three years.”

He pleads guilty to a count of uttering threats. An assault charge is stayed.

The Crown agrees to recommend a conditional discharge after learning Campbell — a father to two teenagers — took it upon himself to seek out mental-health help following his arrest.

At the time of his February 2009 sentencing, court was told he was under the care of a psychiatrist and occupational therapist at the HSC’s PsychHealth centre, having checked himself in there for a time.

He was diagnosed with what was described as “mild” schizophrenia.

“It turns out that his mother also has schizophrenia … so perhaps it’s hereditary,” Judge Marvin Garfinkel is told.

At the time, Campbell was unemployed, but volunteering at the HSC in its “spiritual assistance department.”

The former co-owner of the long-then-defunct Rogue’s Gallery on Assiniboine [less than a block from his home at the time] was due to have a first outpatient appointment at PsychHealth five days after his court date.

He was to see the psychiatrist and therapist bi-weekly.

Garfinkel ordered Campbell to serve a year of probation, with a central condition being for him to to comply with the treatment as directed by his doctor. That could include to take medication as directed, Garfinkel said.

Campbell readily agreed to follow the program and conditions the probation order set out for him.

“I’m here today of my own freewill, under your mercy,” Campbell told Garfinkel in a clear, unconfused voice.

“And I just wanted to say … I’ve witnessed for the first time now how the court system works, and, you’re offering a lot of grace today, and I just want to say, ‘thank you,’ for that.”

There are no breaches of the probation order recorded in the provincial court system — and Campbell had no apparent prior or proceeding record of involvement with the law.

From uttering threats to an allegation of murder. It’s absolutely tragic for everyone involved.

While our police have said little about their homicide case — which at first glance seems just a hair’s breadth from a domestic violence killing — They did make it clear Campbell appeared to be off his meds at the time.

It’s too early to make any observations of whether gaps between the justice and mental-health systems are in any way to be faulted or was a factor in the killing.

But the fact is, from early appearances of the case, Campbell was known to be a risk — and at risk — when not on his meds.

His probation was only one year long, so who knows how long he may have been off of them, or off of the radar of the system entirely.

Those answers may come in due course as Campbell’s latest interaction with the system plays out. He’s naturally presumed innocent of the charge he’s facing.

But after years of seeing eerily similar cases, my mind can’t help but wonder: Was this tragedy in any way preventable?

Was there something we as a society could have done to ensure it never happened?

Is under-resourced mental health care and supervision again the grey elephant in a gloomy room?

Stay tuned.

Links:

[Must read] Mental Health Commission of Canada: Mental Health and the Law

CMHA: Mental Health and the justice system in BC 

Stats Can: An investigation into data collection between Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems

National Post: Mental Health system turning prisons into asylums

Catch and release: Notes on the Samantha Anderson homicide

(Samantha Anderson)
(Samantha Cherish Anderson)

What does the “supervised” in supervised probation mean in Manitoba, exactly?

It’s a question churning around and around in my head today as I dug into the wealth of justice system-related background available on Shayla Woodford, a 21-year-old Manitoba woman accused by police of murdering her one-time live-in lover Samantha Cherish Anderson.

Anderson died Dec. 21, weeks after police say she was attacked in a Boyd Avenue home on Dec. 2 — the day before her 24th birthday.

Woodford was accused (and she’s presumed innocent) right from the start, arrested just after the incident on aggravated assault and probation breach charges.

She was officially rearrested for second-degree murder earlier this week.

At the time of Anderson’s death, Woodford was out on bail (for the 7th time since late 2009) and bound by two supervised probation orders meant to either keep her in check, help rehabilitate her or, more likely, both of those things.

While the latest two cases she faces have yet to be proven, Woodford’s habit of getting collared for crimes raises questions about the level of supervision to be expected when a sentenced person is placed on supervised probation by the courts.

An unusual feature is how Woodford’s involvement with the justice system only dates back three years, shortly after she turned 18 and began her relationship with Anderson.

Since then, however, she’s been arrested and released multiple times for a variety of different offences, some of them domestic-related and others not.

To try and make sense of it, I crafted a timeline out of the available information. After taking a number of hours to consider it and its implications, I’ve decided to present it here for the record:

November 2008: Woodford and Anderson begin their relationship.

Sept 12, 2009: The couple are now living together on Young Street. Woodford, drunk on 24 Budweiser beer, assaults Anderson — even turning up the stereo to mask the sounds of the attack — and is arrested at the scene by police. She’s released on conditions she have no contact with Anderson as the case makes its way through the courts.

October 2009: The couple are back living together despite the no-contact conditions.

January 25-Feb 1, 2010: Sometime in this period, Woodford assaults Anderson again after getting a call from her lawyer, who reads to her Anderson’s statement from the prior incident.

Feb 12, 2010: Woodford asks Anderson “who she’s trying to look good for.” The incident prompts Anderson to flee their home and she tells police she’s forced to hide in a restaurant for 30 minutes to an hour to evade her lover. She spends the rest of the weekend at a friend’s home.

Feb 14, 2010: Woodford spots Anderson outside, pulls up in a car and drags her into it. Woodford pushes her into her home, pulling off Anderson’s shoes and tossing them in the snow, telling her “She’s never going anywhere again.” She then bites her on the arm.

Feb 16, 2010: Anderson discloses recent events to police and they arrest Woodford.

March 29, 2010: Woodford is released on bail to live with family, ordered to have no contact with Anderson and stay a minimum of two blocks away from her at all times.

Nov. 14, 2010: Anderson’s mother has a phone conversation with her daughter, hears Woodford in the background and calls police out of concern. Police attend and take her into custody.

Dec. 22, 2010: Woodford, granted bail weeks earlier, can’t raise a required surety, so conditions are changed on this day to remove that condition. She’s freed, ordered to abide by a nightly curfew and again, have no contact with Anderson.

March 4, 2011: Cops investigating an unrelated compliant are sent on a goose chase trying to find Woodford. They’re told she left town for her home community of Fairford First Nation for the weekend.

March 8, 2011: Woodford stops signing in at bail supervision.

June 7, 2011: Winnipeg cops finally catch up to her after they nearly hit her with a cruiser car when she walks out in front of it near Logan Avenue and Tecumseh Street. The warrant for her arrest comes to light.

Aug. 5, 2011: Woodford, held in custody now, pleads guilty to three counts of assault and a number of breaches. Judge Tim Preston cautions her about her conduct toward Anderson and apportions some of her dead time to the various charges she pleaded to. She’s released that same day on a two year long supervised probation order, with conditions including avoiding Anderson for the entire term, take domestic violence counselling and a weapons ban. These marked her first-ever convictions. “That relationship was not healthy, it’s over,” Preston tells her. “I don’t want you having anything to do with her.”

Dec. 10, 2011: A heavily intoxicated Woodford steals a Duffy’s Taxi driver’s cab, only to be arrested behind the wheel not long after. Belligerent, it takes hours for police to get a breath reading off of her. She blows .210, nearly three times the legal limit.

Dec. 12, 2011: She’s released on bail.

Feb 16, 2012: Woodford is again back in court for reasons that weren’t made clear. But they obviously had something to do with Anderson, because her bail conditions are set to include having no contact with her. She is also barred from being in the City of Winnipeg except for probation and court-related meetings or appointments.

April 6, 2012: Anderson and Woodford are riding a city bus together when one of them decides to snatch an iPhone from a passenger’s hands. They flee, but the passenger gives chase. The two women play a game of keep away with the phone until the victim restrains Woodford and Anderson jets off with the phone. Police ultimately arrest both. The charge against Anderson is stayed at a later date. Woodford is charged with the theft and a no-contact breach.

July 6, 2012: Woodford’s second sentencing: Only through her probing the lawyers does Judge Heather Pullan come to discover out a small amount of the troubled past shared by Woodford and Anderson. “What about Ms. Anderson?,” Pullan asks. “(Woodford’s) victimized her before and is now getting in trouble with her,” she says. She’s told it was Anderson who contacted Woodford this time around and that the relationship is “complex.”

Neither the Crown nor defence requests any additional probation as part of this sentence.

Pullan rebuffs that and imposes another two-year term, despite the fact she appears to be holding her nose somewhat due to Woodford’s conduct on the prior order: “This whole line of behaviour tells me you don’t care what the court says, you’re going to do what you’re going to do and victimize people,” she tells Woodford. “You have to understand, Ms. Woodford, you’re running out of chances.”

Pullan did wonder aloud why it was the prior probation term seemed to be failing to help Woodford get straight, but appeared to push the onus right back on her.

“You’re treating this whole thing as a joke. It’s really hard to protect the public from you,” Pullan tells her.

Sept. 12, 2012: Woodford is accused of several new charges, including assault, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and breach of probation. The incident obviously involves Portage Place Mall, as:

Sept 17, 2012: Woodford is released on bail with conditions she live at an address in Gypsumville and not move without permission and to stay away from Portage Place mall.

October 29, 2012: A Probation officer files a report in support of charging Woodford with new breaches as she can’t be located in Fairford, and a relative says she asked for her stuff to be sent down to Winnipeg. The relative refused to give the probation officer the contact number. The officer warns in the letter that Woodford was assessed at “high risk for general criminal conduct” and she has a “propensity to become violent.” A relative told the officer: “She is supposed to be staying with me and I have tried to help her and now I don’t know what to do.”

Dec. 2, 2012: Anderson is attacked with a kitchen knife inside a Boyd Avenue home and police charge Woodford. They say the two were living at the home. A 17-year-old girl is also injured in the attack.

Dec. 21, 2012: Anderson dies of her injuries.

Dec. 24, 2012: Police announce they have charged Woodford with second-degree murder and she remains in custody.

-30-

Answers needed in Malcolm domestic-violence murder case

(Sandi-Lynn Malcolm/Facebook)

The provincial government, Justice Minister Andrew Swan and those sitting on the provincial domestic violence Death Review Committee must turn their minds to investigating what happened to Sandi-Lynn Malcolm.

Nothing short of a full and frank examination into how a young aboriginal girl can be serially abused by her ex-partner on a small reserve — only to end up brutally killed by his hands, will suffice.

It’s my view the public should be protesting — as Malcolm’s family and friends have done — to bring attention to her case in hopes of rooting out others like it before it’s too late.

What happened to this girl should not have happened and we should be sickened by it. 

After sitting with the facts of Malcolm’s killing for only a short time now, I believe she was failed on a fundamental level, for a number of reasons:

She lived in an isolated environment that had few resources or opportunities for intervention.

Warning signs — including those expressed through her own words to police — that something awful was going to happen weren’t heeded to the degree they should have.

And, (I suppose it goes without saying) Malcolm suffered a fatal consequence in her continued association with a violent human being who urged her to “trust him.”

He repaid her undeserved trust with unspeakable violence.

She was only 17 years old, though. A kid. We can’t lose sight of this.

Answers must be sought.

Here’s why.

“There. I done what had to be done.” — Ronald Racette Jr.

On the night of Jan. 30, 2010 RCMP who police the Ebb and Flow community got a call from Malcolm’s mother, saying her teen daughter was covered with cuts and had black eyes.

Sandi-Lynn gives an official statement, in which she alleges her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Racette Jr., 19, had brutally assaulted her at his father’s home. He punched her, hit her with a lamp, whipped her with the lamp’s cord and then tried to choke her with it.

A check of Racette’s record on CPIC would have alerted police to the fact of his prior domestic-abuse history.

“I should just kill you,” she reported Racette Jr. as telling her. There were no other witnesses, she told police, who photographed her bruises and cuts.

Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 8, Sandi-Lynn picks up the phone wanting to report the violence Racette Jr. put her through a day prior .

She gives another statement: Sandi-Lynn, covered in bruises, tells RCMP that her vow to stay away from Racette Jr. collapsed when he phoned her, pitifully saying he hadn’t eaten in two days.

“She said she had a soft heart and felt sorry for him,” court was told. “He told her to trust him … she did.”

Sandi-Lynn brings Racette Jr. something to eat. They were “getting along fine,” she said.

But when she said she had to go to work on her resume — she hoped to get a job as a cashier in a store — he grew angry.

While out for a walk, Sandi-Lynn was made to run through deep snow, was knocked down and kicked and pummelled while being accused of being unfaithful while he was in jail.

“She told him she didn’t want to die like that.”

Sandi-Lynn’s next words to police were alarmingly prophetic:

“Everybody had told her not to take him back because the next time, he’ll kill you, but she didn’t listen,” court heard of her police statement.

A raging Racette Jr. continually asked her if “she wanted to die.”

“I should just kill you and kill myself,” he said. They were near a creek in the community. He threatened to just throw her in there, “where no-one would find her.”

Sandi-Lynn’s survival skills kicked in. She offset his volatility by “pretending to love him” — putting on a “big front” in hopes of getting away from him alive.

He kept beating her, and made her stay outside, shoeless, in the freezing cold. “She said she felt like she was being kept hostage or something,” RCMP heard.

Racette Jr. wasn’t drinking, Sandi-Lynn said.

After giving her statement, RCMP set out to look for him. At the second community home they came to, Racette Jr. is seen fleeing into some bushes.

Cops chased him on foot but couldn’t catch up. A warrant issues but he’s not caught.

He’d re-emerge just over two weeks later for his last night of freedom.

A recounting of Sandi-Lynn’s last hours were presented to the court through witness testimony from people who were around Sandi-Lynn in her last hours and minutes.

On the evening of Feb. 26, Sandi-Lynn and a group of girlfriends scored a 30-pack of beer, but didn’t set about drinking heavily. She used the phone at one point, and reported the party was happening at Racette Jr.’s dad’s home.

It’s believed she was talking to Racette Jr. in this call. He turned up not long after.

Before he came to get the girls and their remaining 24 cans of beer, Sandi-Lynn asked her friends to “watch over her and not let him be alone with her.”

He picked them up in a nondescript “black car.”

Instead of driving directly to the party, Racette Jr. took a route past a local cemetery and stopped the vehicle.

“This is where we are all going to end up,” he said.

A ‘trail of knives’

Once at the party, it didn’t take long for Racette Jr. to become irate. Sandi-Lynn refused him a request to go alone with him to another room.

Not long after, Sandi-Lynn and another friend were horsing around, just being girls. “She’s my girl now,” the friend joked to Racette Jr.

Racette Jr. responds by punching the friend in the face four times, an assault only stopped after others intervened to pull him off.

He goes outside for a few moments. Returns. Another request of Sandi-Lynn is made for the two to be alone. Another refusal from her.

This. The last straw. He tosses an ashtray in her direction and begins grabbing knives.

“A number of people went and hid in Ronald Sr.’s bedroom because they feared something terrible was going to happen,” Justice Midwinter was told.

They had no idea how awful it was going to get. Sandi-Lynn and another woman who had come to collect her young son from the home fled to a bathroom.

Another witness reported seeing a “trail of knives” leading to the bathroom door.

‘The cops are coming’

I won’t recount what happens next, other than to say a jealous and enraged Racette Jr. committed acts of such brutal and extreme violence on Sandi-Lynn that hearing the extent of her injuries was truly jarring.

47 stab wounds don’t even amount to half of the total number of injuries a pathologist totalled up. Dr. Charles Littman noted 105 “incidents of trauma” on her.

One of Sandi-Lynn’s friends tried to stop the attack by stabbing Racette Jr. in the back as he murdered the teen. It only served to anger him more.

“He looks at her with an evil look and went charging after her.”

He made his way to his father’s bedroom — they unlocked the door to let him in — where people cowered in fear. Children had to be out out the window for fear of their safety.

“Why did you do that? You killed that girl,” his dad told him. “You better get out of here, the cops are coming.”

Racette Jr. didn’t reply. He went back to the bathroom where Sandi-Lynn was and turned on the shower.

A witness says he left the house shortly after, leaving these haunting words in the gloom:

“There. I done what had to be done.”

Efforts to revive Sandi-Lynn didn’t work. It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Police caught up with Racette Jr. at his aunt’s home, where he was wrapped in a blanket, being comforted by a relative.

 ‘Our little reserve is not a war zone’

There was little defence lawyer Todd Bourcier could say in defence of what Racette Jr. did — acts the now 21-year-old pleaded guilty to doing.

But Bourcier raised some credible points about the lack of intervention and other resources in the community for domestic abusers and abuse victims alike.

The nearest women’s shelter from Ebb and Flow (on-reserve population of 1,200 or so) is in Dauphin, a distance of 50 kilometres away.

Options for counselling for men is limited, even to address what he termed the “surface concerns” for offenders with histories of abusing their partners.

And certainly nothing to address Racette Jr.’s specific needs as an angry, jealous, ill-educated, booze-and-drug abusing violent offender of a horrible background, now convicted murderer.

There’s one band constable on reserve, and the nearest RCMP detachment is in St. Rose du Lac, about 35 or 40 kilometres away, according to an online description of the band’s operations.

Despite the small number of people living in the community, between December, January and February, cops responded to 465 service calls, 78 of them regarding violence, Bourcier said.

It goes without saying Sandi-Lynn’s family and friends have been wrecked by not just her death, but also how she died. She was just weeks away from her 18th birthday.

I was there at the Manitoba Legislature a few days after Racette Jr. was charged with her murder when Sandi-Lynn’s relatives and friends travelled the 300 k.m. into the city to hold a candlelit vigil and peaceful protest to condemn domestic violence.

(Malcolm’s family and friends hold candlelight vigil at the legislature)

“Our little reserve is not a war zone. Things like this should not happen,” her dad, Kingsley Malcolm, told me at the time.

They did the same thing in 2011, this time, her cousin calling for more attention to be paid to what happened:

“At the time of Sandi’s death the Olympics were closing, so there was not much coverage about her. We needed to bring it to the public’s attention,” she said. “I felt I needed to do this so we could honour her and bring people together to support one another. (from missingmanitobawomen.blogspot.ca published Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011)

Racette Jr.’s sentencing judge, Justice Brian Midwinter, was clearly aggrieved at the underlying circumstances informing Sandi-Lynn’s death, telling the gallery:

 There were no resources in the community for Mr. Racette to access … and I have to deal with a vicious attack unprovoked by anything the victim did.

Would it be too much of a stretch to believe that the simply sad domestic-violence resource situation in Ebb and Flow is markedly different from countless other isolated Manitoba communities out there?

Today, using the only tiny power I have — this forum — I’m calling on the Manitoba government to task its domestic violence Death Review Committee to investigate Sandi-Lynn’s murder, the circumstances that led up to it and issue a public report on its findings. 

Further reading:

Father of slain teen condemns domestic abuse

Missing and Murdered Manitoba Women on the Malcolm case

Sandi-Lynn Malcolm Obituary

Domestic violence on the docket

Domestic violence: Province of Manitoba

Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (Free Press, update article in 2011)

Province announces Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (2010)

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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The first step is admitting there’s a problem

(eBaums world)

“1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”

-Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step of the 12-step program

Wanna make Manitoba — home of the violent crime capital of Canada — a safer place to live?

Want to make a meaningful effort to restore public order after this election season?

Then we need to take meaningful, even drastic, steps to get Manitoba’s booze problem under control.

Reductions in violent crime will follow, and I’d imagine pretty quickly at that.

While all signs point to the abuse of booze being the single most common factor in all occurrences of violent crime, Manitoba is moving forward — with plans to get booze into the hands of people in easier and more convenient ways.

Bars and clubs in Winnipeg are packed, night after night, even though the majority of people that I know anyway readily admit they’re only somewhat fun to be at; that the overall experience is kind of sad from a social-interaction perspective.

Why is that?

Casinos in Winnipeg — all government controlled — are also doing brisk business, despite the fact winning it big is a losing proposition for most.

Why is that?

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission rings up record sales year after year after year according to its annual reports. Sales keep climbing, along with the violent crime rate. (In millions of dollars)

2007 — $521,380

2008 — $554,769

2009 — $583,763

2010 — $610,515

Why is that?

Despite a decline in the number of charges laid last year over 2009, impaired driving in Manitoba remains a massive public safety issue. Each time police run a project to crack down on the crime, drunk drivers are caught. There’s never a time the cops head home after a Checkstop shift scratching their heads and saying, ‘ I guess that’s been taken care of.’

Why is that?

I’m no expert in addictions, and I like a cold beer like pretty much everyone else.

But one thing I can say from experience, is that if a serious violent crime happens in Winnipeg, booze is likely a backdrop to the events leading up to it.

Just look at the incredibly serious cases making recent headlines in Winnipeg’s crime news:

Nikita Eaglestick abducts a baby and inexplicably smashes its face on a sidewalk. She was so drunk she couldn’t remember anything about doing it or what led up to it. At the time, she was on bail and bound by a court order to abstain from drinking.

A drinking party in the northern fringes of the West End prompts family members to arm themselves and spill into the streets. A man is run over and killed when a van is used as a weapon. A teen girl faces a first-degree murder charge and an attempted murder charge to boot.

A man twice hailed as a hero for saving people from drowning admits that his chronic alcoholism was a major factor in contributing to an assault on a city doctor when she didn’t have any money to offer him.

“(Faron) Hall said he looks forward to getting out of jail soon, but added that he is nervous because he doesn’t know if or how he can get counselling to kick his alcohol addiction.”

These are but a few of the most blatant and easy to find examples at my fingertips.

But also consider how youth violent crime is also rising. Do we know precisely what role FASD plays in that? Anecdotally, everyone knows it’s a huge issue, and one that’s expensive and complex to fix. We largely leave that largely to an overtaxed justice system to ferret out and try to stem.

But in this provincial election season, we need to come to grips with what the real problem is and expect those who want to lead us into the future to show some vision on this front. If the provincial government can’t change the criminal law per se, it can change the atmosphere in which the law exists. It does, at the end of the day, have the Liquor Control Act in its back pocket.

Instead, the electorate is promised more police officers as the primary way of boosting public safety or order, the cure-all for our seemingly intractable crime issues.

Let’s think about that.

We know that the number one — by a huge margin — call for service police officers spend their times going to are domestic disturbances. (17,019 dispatched calls in 2009. The next highest was ‘check wellbeing’ (also booze-influenced) at 7,862).

How many of those domestics are booze-related — ie: Jimmy got pissed and beat Janey up again?

Eighty per cent? I’d guess it’s even possibly higher.

If we as a society were to try and get a handle on our booze problem, how much police resource time would be saved for officers to do other things? I’d suggest it would be huge. The need for new cops would be nil.

We also know that bootlegging outside the city onto so-called ‘dry’ reserves is a huge problem.

Kives had a good column on new cops as election pledge today.

Look: I know there’s the argument of personal responsibility here. People have to be held accountable for what they choose to ingest and the public’s fed up with intoxication being used as a defence against  culpability for vile criminal acts.

(FASD presents a thorny issue, though, as most would readily admit that unborns can’t make the choice to have that vodka shot or not).

But let’s at least call a spade a spade and take the first step in admitting Manitoba has a drinking problem.

Since the state regulates the sale and consumption of booze, and profits greatly from it, we should demand nothing less. It’s time to have a real discussion about crime in our province and how to meaningfully affect change.

And now — at least up until Oct. 4 is the time we did it.

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Say hello to last year

(Winnipeg Police Service)

One month before 2011 is set to begin, The Winnipeg Police Service officially releases its annual report for 2009.

 

Oddly, they’re also holding a press conference for reporters to discuss, ask questions about and dissect last year’s news.

I’ll save you the trouble. There’s none to be found in it. Well, almost.

Problem is it’s unfair to claim this data as reflective of anything because it’s so old.

Once again, the report notes police spend a lot of their time going to domestic disturbances. It’s far and away the patrol officer’s #1 job.

 

 

Homicide clearances are the same as in 2008, at 81 per cent. So, roughly 1 in 5 go unsolved. Not bad, given the gang problem in the city.

(Winnipeg Police Service)

Two other things jump out: (see chart)

 

1] The number of firearms/offensive weapons crimes jumped 46 per cent over 2008 — what appears to be a jump of about 200+ occurrences. A reflection of how much more potentially dangerous the city’s become — not just for the public — but for police officers as well.

2] A spike in robberies of 30 per cent, with a clearance rate of 29 per cent.

Robberies, however, were up 30 per cent last year over 2008.

That’s concerning, as robberies are frequently identified by the general public as a crime they are greatly concerned about. They should be.

In 2007-08, we saw a drop in robberies of about 16 per cent, but the clearance rate remained the same.

Arsons were also up in 2009 — by 35 per cent — but the clearance rate a slim 16 per cent.

The year before that, arsons jumped by a whopping 58 per cent, but the clearance rate was standing at about 26 per cent.

The thing that jumped out at me the most from last year’s report, however, has to be this statement:

Analysis has revealed that about 70% of the 5,000 missing person reports managed each year by the WPS are wards of child protection agencies. Many of these youths are chronic runaways, some with more than 150 police contacts. Research and experience has taught us that these chronic run- aways are frequently victimized, criminalized and exploited by predators while on the run from child- care facilities.

That just says to me the province is offloading its responsibility to care and watch over these kids to the police service and the city.

More must be done to supervise them, or the province should be kicking in more to pay for apprehending them.

Better yet — one thing the province could do is detail some probation officers to a quasi missing persons unit to head out and look for these kids. Would cost less and free up police officer time to bust robbers and gun-traffickers, instead of babysit.

But, who knows. It’s year-old news. Maybe everything’s changed since the dawn of 2010.

2009_wps_annual_report_english – PDF is 2+MB in size.

-30-

PS: I did love this picture in it to accompany the page describing the “investigative” units:

(Winnipeg Police Service)

The suit-wearing suspect just says something to me, I guess.

“Let the system do its work”

 

Manitoba Law Courts building

 

The headline of this post is what Rose McLeod says she heard when she phoned around in an effort to get her mentally-ill husband, Joe, sprung from the Remand Centre.

I feel for her, and him. He must have been scared out of his wits being in there.

But the case is intriguing, and I’d bet to many on the inside of the system, deeply troubling on a few levels.

No person is above the law.

It’s a fundamental principle of justice that the law must be uniformly applied to  everyone in society.

The administration of justice must be above political influence and the whims of the public and the press (whose views are so often looked upon by justice officials with a kind of contempt, I personally feel)

Let’s look at the facts of the McLeod case as they’ve become known:

In early September, a disoriented Joe McLeod pushes his wife, who calls police because she doesn’t know what else to do. Police arrest and charge him with assault causing bodily harm.

For some reason, police chose to detain him, perhaps over concerns for the safety of his wife and maybe the fact he has nowhere else to go that would keep him away from her (she’s a named complainant, don’t forget).

Within my understanding of WPS domestic-violence policy, the officers attending the call had no discretion but to arrest him.

He’s sent to the Remand Centre, where he’s held in a medical ward, away from general population.

On Sept. 8, Joe McLeod make his first court appearance.

His case is remanded 11 times. He appears in courtroom 304 – the domestic-violence bail court – 3 times, but fails to make a bail application.

His wife, worried sick, ramps up her efforts to try and explain the situation.

“Let the system do its work,” she says everyone told her.

Finally, the Liberal party of Manitoba, through its leader Jon Gerrard — a doctor —  saw that holding a press conference to highlight McLeod’s situation was the best way to accomplish two things: Help Rose McLeod in a troubling situation, and, at the same time, criticize the NDP government, which as a matter of routine, is beyond cagy when it comes to public accountability on the justice file.

Headlines blare and the WRHA (???) is held up to talk about/explain the issue to reporters. Since when does the health authority have discretion to comment on criminal justice cases?

Reporters scratch their heads as to why, but the story continues.

The justice minister is nowhere to be found and requests to speak with him are declined.

Political pressure is applied and magnifies the plight of this one mentally-ill man.

Friday — two days after the Liberal press conference — Judge Sandy Chapman sets him free on bail so he can go live at a care home that was hastily arranged for him by health officials.

The Crown (which had the discretion to consented to his bail weeks ago if it so chose) did not oppose his release.

In effect, the bail hearing was a completely unnecessary bit of show.

Note, however, that the file changed hands from junior to senior prosecutor by Friday.

The charge against McLeod remains, and will no doubt be stayed down the road before it ever gets before a judge for a hearing. That’s my bet.

The McLeod case has me thinking a number of concerning things about the nature of justice in Manitoba.

  1. Either the police who arrested him and had him detained were inexperienced,  OR there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling people OR they were hamstrung by the WPS’s ‘mandatory arrest’ policy in DV cases (that’s arrest, not detain, mind you), [NOTE: see comments below for a great explanation of how it works…] OR
  2. The Remand Centre has no intake protocol or discretion with Manitoba Justice to flag cases of concern to the Crown…OR
  3. If you make a big enough stink in the press you can skirt the #1 notion of the justice system (that it applies equally to all — you have to “let the system do its work” —) and get fast-tracked to the front of the line for health care services OR,
  4. S**t happens, mistakes get made, OR,
  5. You fill in the blank.
Rose McLeod was told to “let the system do its work,” but found that to get results, she had no choice but to work the system.
  • What about the next time this happens?
  • How come one press conference and a hue and cry in the media can get nearly-immediate results or action from a system that’s supposed to be above responding to such things?
  • How many other accused persons with Alzheimer’s or Schizophrenia or other mental illnesses are behind bars or locked in medical wards of hospitals when they should be — as the McLeod case shows — getting care?
  • Why do my legal sources — people working on the front-lines of the criminal justice system every day — tell me that 7-day mental health assessments ordered by a court for bail purposes routinely take 5-6 weeks to prepare?
  • Why are there only two doctors in Manitoba currently doing these assessments, along with a range of other duties?
  • How can any WRHA official use the excuse of “the case is before the courts, and therefore we can’t comment” ever again?
  • Where is the mental health court that former Attorney General Dave Chomiak promised Manitobans?

Media pressure and Manitoba Justice

UPDATE: there was never any peace bond. The woman applied for a protection order. The two can’t be confused in Manitoba.

And, reports that she applied for one yesterday were erroneous.

She just got the order after a hearing in front of a Justice of the Peace this morning, just before noon.

So, apologies are in order to the province and the justice department.

Just heard Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger on CBC radio commenting on his relief that Amanda Westervelt obtained a peace bond against Kevin Steppan, the sex-offender who was released from Headingley yesterday.

I am assuming that the media are not confusing protection order with peace bond. (See above note: they did)

A peace bond is different, and at the province’s own admission, more complex (and far more time-consuming) to obtain.

Steppan was also to be afforded the right to appear to hear the evidence for that application and ask questions about her evidence.

With a protection order, he has no such right. He will be served with the order and can apply to have it set aside, but that’s unlikely to happen.

According to the province’s own information sheet:

Applicants can apply to their local Provincial Court office for a Peace Bond. Provincial Court judges hear applications for Peace Bonds. The respondent is advised of the application and both the applicant and respondent have to appear in court. The respondent has the right to question the applicant. It can take several weeks to get an initial court date. It can take months before a judge will hear the Peace Bond application. Bonds are issued for a specific period of time, up to a maximum of one year. There is no fee to apply for a Peace Bond.

Protection & Prevention orders and Peace Bonds

I take no issue with Westervelt wanting some relief for her and her son, and I’m sincerely glad she found some.

It was odd to hear Selinger on the radio talking about how he’s relieved Westervelt’s bond is now in place.

According to the news item, Selinger admitted that media pressure played a role in convincing justice officials to reconsider her situation.

It goes without saying, everyone’s on edge knowing that Steppan is free.