The latest Crime Scene Golden Crown award

(The Golden Crown Award)

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

Manitoba prosecutor Courtney St. Croix — for her handling of a particular youth court case that is, in my experience, exceptional in its thuggery.

Some preface is needed:

It would be very easy for Crowns (I’d surmise) when handling certain youth cases anyways, to simply throw up one’s prosecutorial hands and be done with things. Make a deal for probation and close the book on it.

The YCJA, and its emphasis on rehabilitation of young criminals first can (and some in the public overtly agree) thwart some citizens’ views of actual justice being done.

Those arguments are always met with a version of the same argument: “They’re just kids, and we don’t give up on kids.”

Now while that’s a worthwhile credo, sometimes kids do, to put it mildly, the darndest things.

Such was the case of now-16-year-old ‘S’, who faced the music Wednesday for her participation in two robberies in summer 2010.

My Winnipeg Sun story is here for the gist of things and to give the full flavor from the victim’s perspective of how serious the crime was, here in the robbery capital of Canada.

(Aside: How many other untold horror stories like this are out there?)

What’s interesting about the case is that the co-accused got a short, sharp shock in jail, despite her lesser degree of participation. Held the victim down and gave her one kick.

Not so for S. She walked away Wednesday with two years of supervised probation, admittedly with some stringent conditions for the first few months.

Despite randomly picking a stranger to attack, brutally beat and strangle for no apparent reason — two days after robbing another guy behind a 7-11 — S won’t do any real time.

Quoth the victim:

“The experience was terrifying. I remember pure terror and thinking I may die because people I have never met randomly decided that it might be so,” the victim, her voice often choking with emotion, said. “I vividly recall looking into (her attacker’s) eyes and saying, ‘Please don’t do this,’ right before she threw the first punch.”

Her pleas made no difference, she said. She told court she remembers being kicked in the head countless times and strangled with a scarf and a headphone cord as she lay prone, pinned to the ground by a co-accused — another teen girl. She eventually blacked out, she said.

The judge in the case, Sandra Chapman, cited her lack of criminal record, a somewhat positive PSR and a show of remorse as being among the reasons to keep her out of the MYC.

But I can’t help but feel it was the presence of the teen’s cooing newborn in court that really paved a jail-free road for her.

“I cannot ignore the importance of a mom to a baby at early stages,” Chapman said, who added putting her in juvie jail may simply aid in her re-involvement in crime.

All that aside — Crown attorney St. Croix walked into court that morning and asked — no, pushed — for the girl to go to real jail for what what was labeled a serious violent offence — a Crown request Chapman called “not unreasonable” in light of S’s brutal act.

And for that, Ms. St. Croix garners the second-ever Golden Crown award. Thanks for trying.

-30-

The Crime Scene’s first-ever Golden Crown award

(The Golden Crown)

In homage to my Twitter pal @Tombrodbeck of the Winnipeg Sun, I give my faithful followers the first-ever installment of what will be now be known as “the Golden Crown award” — handed out to some of the best examples of Manitoba Prosecutors trying to deter and denounce unlawful conduct.

This illustrious award’s first recipient comes after a court hearing today where a Winnipeg mom of nine was spared jail after she drunkenly crashed her car and abandoned her five-year-old daughter inside, only to be arrested minutes later in her home, passed out on the couch and with another child screaming at the top of its lungs in the background.

Two hours after the crash, the woman — who has no prior record — blew a breathalyzer reading of .17 — more than twice the legal limit — and was charged with child abandonment and impaired driving (there were no injuries serious enough to bump it up to impaired causing bodily harm). The charge was referred to today in court as “Impaired Driving Simplicitor” — a charge that somehow nets everybody a fine upon a first conviction for it, at least according to one top Manitoba judge.

And here’s why Manitoba Crown attorney Lisa Cupples is this illustrious award’s first recipient.

She asked Judge Ray Wyant to send the woman to jail for the crime. She didn’t say how long, just that she be locked up to send her — and others — a message.

She even presented case law to back up why she should be locked up as a way to denounce not only her conduct — but deter others from drinking and driving. They’re two of the main sentencing principles enunciated by Parliament.

And what’s more, former Provincial Court Chief Judge Ray Wyant almost did send her to the clink — but ultimately ruled that it wouldn’t be in society’s (or the offender’s) interest to do so, for various reasons (see below).

But without a doubt, Cupples’s request clearly had Wyant thinking — and thinking out loud at that. He told her in his experience, no prosecutor had ever proposed such a thing.

Here’s his comments to her on her argument for jail, verbatim, from today’s hearing:

I have to say it’s the first time that I can recall — not necessarily a bad thing — but the first time I’ve heard a Crown attorney, at least in my experience, ask for jail on an impaired simplicitor where there were no injuries at least that justified the laying or the proceeding of impaired causing bodily harm.

I have to say I’ve seen countless cases — far too many sadly — of people driving at high rates of speed and blitzed, hitting cars and smashing whatever and — I appreciate you don’t speak for others — but I don’t think I ever recall anything but the Crown saying, ‘well take into account the seriousness of this, but because it’s a first offence, she should receive a fine.”

[Snip … to later in his reasons]

I commend the Crown for bringing that factor to the court’s attention. Often times we may get into the situation where we just have standard sentences for certain offences. ‘First time impaired simplicitor? — gotta be a fine.’

And a range of fine perhaps dependent on the existence or lack of aggravating circumstances: ‘what was the (breathalyzer) reading?,’ ‘Was there property damage?,’ ‘Was there a high rate of speed?,’ ‘Was there the potential for injuries?’ — That kind of thing, where the person has no record — and I think the Crown’s position reflects the fact that each individual case has to be looked at seriously, and that just because it’s an impaired simplicitor and just because the person has no prior record that doesn’t automatically mean that they get a fine.

And it shouldn’t mean that.

[Snip …]

Drinking and driving is rampant and it doesn’t appear that we’ve been able to abate the carnage on our highways in spite of the education and in spite of the increased penalties.

I think we all know that if the police were probably given more resources to go out and nab impaired drivers, we’d see a lot more in here and that’s sadly something I think we all see too often.

Wyant then went on to give his rationale for why jail in this case was inappropriate (mom had just gotten all her kids back, was 1 year sober, had been actively participating in rehab and AA etc.).

But he complemented Cupples for raising jail as an option.

As we all should.

Ms. Cupples, keep up the good work. People notice.

-30-