Judge Lismer just says ‘no’

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

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

There were two cases that stood out.

Exhibit one: The Level-4 offender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exhibit two: “In need of protection”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lismer, again, wasn’t buying it.

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

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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.

All about Steppan

Kevin Steppan

He should need no introduction, but Kevin Steppan is released from Headingley jail today.

You can read all about Steppan’s misdeeds and ugly sex crimes by a simple Google search.

But should you be interested in learning why a judge ruled he was not a dangerous offender [and therefore subject to indefinite detention], I present that decision here in its entirety.

Giesbrecht, PJ decision on Steppan, Feb 18, 2010 [PDF]

Happy reading. It’s fascinating stuff.

Steppan is expected to return to Winnipeg.