The 3rd-ever Golden Crown award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’ll teach him.

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

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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.

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