SHAWN LAMB: Where does the buck stop in Manitoba Justice?

(Carolyn Sinclair, one of Lamb’s alleged victims)

After having a couple of days now to be immersed in the information on suspected city serial murderer Shawn Cameron Lamb, there’s still so many more questions than answers.

And it’s not the usual questions eating away at me.

For me, and I admit it’s really gotten under my skin, the number one thing that’s been eating away at my mind is:

Why was Lamb free prior to the full expiry of his 19-month jail sentence (from May 26, 2010).

He served only 13 of the months despite his horrendous record.

But more importantly:

Why was a provincial judge’s order regarding how Lamb’s sentence should be served either totally ignored or at least countermanded by Manitoba Corrections?

It’s a little convoluted, but please bear with me – the context is uber-important.

In January 2009, Lamb got a major break from Judge Wanda Garreck: an 18-month long conditional sentence and three years of probation (supervised) for an attempted robbery of a mom who simply happened to be in the area pushing her baby near where Lamb was smoking crack.

As it’s often touted, a CSO is “a jail sentence” where a criminal is allowed to serve it in the community, usually tied to several stringent conditions which are supposed to be supervised and enforced by a “sentence supervisor” and probation officers.

Breaching CSO conditions is supposed to lead to immediate rearrest and incarceration and the possibility of having the remainder of the CSO terminated and turned into real jail time in a real locked jail.

Some of Lamb’s CSO conditions included: mandatory counselling, mandatory residential rehab, Narcotics and Alcoholics anonymous provisions, 100 hours of community service, no drugs, no drinking, seeking and maintaining employment or schooling, medical or psychiatric treatment as directed.

Most importantly, it included a strict curfew, structured as follows:

First 6 months: Absolute. 24-7 curfew.

Second 6 months: 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Third 6 months: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

So. Lamb walks out of the Remand that day and roughly a week later is re-involved, or as the Crown put it: “He gets right back to work.”

Lamb swipes a Ford Taurus from a banquet hall and then forges signatures on 9 cheques stolen from inside the vehicle. He’s not arrested right away because police didn’t immediately recognize him on surveillance tapes.

He’s not arrested until April 2009, not until after he’s committed two “opportunistic” violent robberies and admits he’s been using crack while out on his conditional release.

Anyhow, he sits in jail for 13.5 months until that fateful day when Lamb appears before Judge Linda Giesbrecht on May 26, 2010.

She’s told of his horrendous record, the facts of his slew of crimes and given a complete breakdown of how many violent convictions he’s had.

Giesbrecht said Lamb’s rap sheet was “coming very close” to the worst she’d ever seen.

Lamb, when given the opportunity, goes on an extremely lengthy tirade about how he’s changed, the steps he’s taken to correct his life; that he was “doomed to fail” when he was granted the CSO in 2009 because things didn’t immediately fall in place for him as expected.

He’s taken responsibility and doesn’t want to hurt anyone any more, he says.

(Remember, Lamb’s been in front of 45 or more sentencing judges since 1976. He’s old hat at how things work by now.)

A joint recommendation for a sentence is proposed, and accepted for guilty pleas to 16 charges.

The sentence was: 13.5 months of time-served at double time credit (27 months), 19 months going forward, and an order that the remaining months of the previous conditional sentence (Y’know, the one he totally breached within a week or so of being out on it) would not start up again until he was released from jail on the new 19-month term. 

Importantly, the Crown stayed an allegation he breached the conditional sentence order. This is key. The CSO was not converted into jail time.

It was simply suspended — held “in abeyance” is how it was put in court. There was discussion between the lawyers as to whether this was the case, and it was agreed: The clock on the CSO stopped ticking when he was rearrested and was not completed.

In pronouncing Lamb’s sentence, Giesbrecht couldn’t have been more direct as to her wishes.

“It’s clear when you’re released the conditional sentence — whatever’s left of that — starts up, and that will be a considerable restriction on your liberty,” she said. “There’s going to be lots of help for you in the community when you’re released.”

She repeated same a few minutes later:

“That (CSO) will not run while you continue to serve your 19-month sentence … and whatever is remaining (13-14 months) will continue to run after you’re released for your 19-month sentence.”

But it didn’t. The province confirmed as much on Tuesday.

Seemingly adding insult to injury, Lamb — despite his extensive record of giving his middle finger to the law — still got automatic “earned remission,” and had six months lopped off his jail time.

So much for community supervision. So much for Giesbrecht’s ruling.

I asked the province the following prior to writing on this in Wednesday’s Winnipeg Sun.

“Just wondering about that request I asked for on Shawn Lamb’s release date last year?
Also, is there a chance I could please speak with someone in corrections about this case?
Upon his release last year, Lamb was supposed to have completed the remainder of an 18 month conditional sentence handed to him in January 2009 (he was rearrested a few months (after)  it started and held in abayance until his 2010 sentence was complete.
Wondering if that’s the case here.”

Here’s the two sentence response I got:

LAMB was released on June 24, 2011 (including 27 months of remand credit).
On the question of serving out the Conditional sentence order – for all intents and purposes the conditional sentence was satisfied, including the period of incarceration, so it had been served and all conditions and requirements had been met when he was released on June 24, 2011.

My request to speak with an official in corrections was not addressed.

(To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be. For the largest department in Manitoba Justice, you strangely seldom hear a scurrying word about their operations.)

Justice Minister Andrew Swan wouldn’t comment when asked about Lamb’s early release, citing the start of the criminal prosecution and ongoing police investigation.

I’d ask you to note how this issue really has nothing, except very tangentially, to do with the murder or sexual assault allegations Lamb now faces.

It does, however, have everything to do with where the buck stops in Manitoba’s justice system.

The only way I can see to put it is like this: A judge’s order regarding how best to sentence Lamb was either disobeyed, ignored or countermanded by corrections officials. 

I don’t know who allows the department to do this.

The public expects that a judge’s decision is final and should be obeyed.

If a Manitoba Justice department doesn’t seem to take judges’ rulings on sentences seriously, why should criminals? Why should you or I?

I expect that a judge’s decision be respected and followed as it was directed.

In this serious case, it wasn’t. We don’t know if Lamb took the mandatory rehab and psychological programming. Did he complete the 100 hours of community service? We don’t know.

We’re not really allowed to know and it’s ridiculous.

And I think we all deserve answers what happened here.

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Major crimes: a week in review V

Jessica Bondar (CBC)

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

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

Partnership to provide legal assistance to low-income families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The legal answering machine

 

Supreme Court of Canada (Philippe Landreville photo)

 

There’s a beautiful, funny, passage in a SCC decision released today today.

Lately, the high court has been looking at a number of criminal appeal cases where the accused believes police infringed their rights to counsel.

Specifically, police are accused of denying them proper access to lawyers/legal advice in the interrogation portion of their arrest [the part where they say a bunch of stuff that really puts them in the jackpot, or…prison.]

Anyhow, in R. v Sinclair, the court writes that one of the conditions allowing a person to re-assert their right to counsel after they’ve already done so to interrogators, there must be a change in circumstances that backs up that request.

For example, a person’s arrested for robbery and suddenly learns they’re actually on the pointy end of a murder beef.

The court notes that legal advice for a person in any interrogation situation will only be as good as what police let the person know the situation is.

From the decision:

Communication between solicitor and client is the condition precedent to the lawyer’s ability to assist. The advice will only be as good as the information on which it is based. In the case of s. 10(b), the lawyer cannot function effectively in an informational vacuum without the possibility of even a general idea of the unfolding situation in the interrogation room.

Until aware of that situation, the lawyer may be in no position to render — and the detainee may not receive — meaningful assistance beyond what could be accomplished by a recorded message:

“You have reached counsel. Keep your mouth shut. Press one to repeat this message.” In this case, the evolving situation produced information S’s lawyer needed to have to do his job.

Such an answering machine would be a blessing, I’d bet, to all the harried junior defence lawyers forced to take the drunken 3 a.m. phone calls from the cop shop.

Two other recent cases also deal with the same issue:

R. v Willier

R. v McCrimmon

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.

‘His country let him down’: An open letter

Mike Allan in an undated photo with his beloved dog. Family Photo/James Turner/CBC

Hello James,

I know you have been talking to my sister … and her husband Merv and I have been reading all your reports. As usual this morning I woke up thinking about everything that has happened and all that follows was in my head.

Feel free to get back to me by email if you wish and to publish any of this that you want to.

I am Michael Allan’s other sister.  He was my little brother that I always protected when we were kids.  This time I couldn’t protect him.

As you know Michael was viciously and horribly murdered on July 31st.

My brother was proud to be a Canadian.  He went to his grave wrapped in a symbol of our flag.  But his country let him down.

Michael was also a supporter of the NDP.  But his government let him down.

Michael was very interested in people and always tried to help them.  In the end, a person let him down.

My brother had at one time worked for Meals on Wheels.  He did volunteer work for the Salvation Army.  He loved to talk to people.  He was an extremely intelligent man.  When we were in high school the principal told my mother that he had the highest IQ in the school.  He could talk on any subject to anyone at any level.

Not any more.

Michael was suffering from a lung disease that he was slowly recovering from.  He had improved enough that he was able to walk the few blocks from his house to my sister’s house.  Now he will never be able to do that again.  He was not well enough that he would have been able to protect himself from an attacker.

My sister, my son (Michael’s nephew), and I bought the house he was living in for him so that he could live near my sister and be safe.  How ironic.  Our hope was that my sister would be nearby, make sure he ate well, all the things that sisters do.  Now we are left without a brother but with a house that will probably cost us thousands of dollars in repairs due to what the killer did.

My brother loved his gardens and his two cats.  His gardens are about ready for harvest and he is not there to see it.  His two cats are languishing and lonely in a cage at a shelter.  While we are grateful to the shelter for taking them in it is no place for his beloved cats to live out their lives.  They are not even 2 years old yet.

They are waiting for someone to take them in, together, where they will be loved again in a forever home.

Are we angry with ‘the system’?  Definitely yes.

Do we wish something can be done about it?  Of course, yes.  Do we have trouble sleeping because of the things we know were done to Michael when he was murdered?

Again yes.  A lot of the horror has never been published.

Mostly we miss Michael.

Sincerely,

Elaine Allan Rempel

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Deja vu

In late November 2003, a 22-year-old woman is convicted of assault and given a short time-in-custody sentence and 18 months of probation.

She’s released from jail that same day.

One of the conditions of her probation is to take up immediate residence at the Behavioural Health Foundation to seek help for her cocaine addiction.

She never turns up.

A warrant is issued. She’s arrested and convicted of breaching probation on Jan. 9, 2004.

She’s released after 22 days in jail.

A few days later, on Jan. 26, 2004, she’s arrested at the scene of a 77-year-old man’s home on Maryland Street.

He’s already been carted off to the Grace Hospital in an ambulance.

From the Crown’s submission at the woman’s bail hearing on Jan. 28:

The accused sometimes attends to the complainant’s home to drink.

..The accused had consumed some liquor and then an argument started between them. It escalated to the point where the accused struck the complainant on the head with a small wooden coffee table. During the attack the accused said to the complainant: ‘I will kill you.’ She took his house and car keys and left the residence.

The elderly victim suffers cuts to his face and several to his hands. He’s admitted and spends at least the night under observation of doctors.

The Crown continues:

While the police were at the complainant’s house investigating, the accused returned to the address, but when she saw police she took off on foot. She was captured a short distance later and was arrested for the offences.

The accused, Mary Ellen Thomas, AKA Mary Ellen Young, AKA Mary Ann Smith is read her rights and given the usual caution by officers. She’s charged with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000, breaching probation and uttering threats.

The Crown rattles off a number of Thomas/Young/Smith’s priors for Judge Ron Meyers:

  • December 2000, 2x breach of undertaking; 2x communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 2002, Fail to appear and breach of probation
  • January 2002, Fail to comply with conditions of release, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • February 2002, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • July 2002, breach probation, communicate for the purposes of prostitution
  • January 23, 2003, 4x court-order breaches, mischief under $5,000
  • Nov. 24, 03, assault, breach recognizance

The Crown:

“She admitted the assaults verbally on the complainant by stating, ‘he acts like he’s helping me and he’s not. When I’m sleeping he touches me. I just got fed up and beat him up,” Shelley McFadyen tells Meyers.

Her defence lawyer pledges to the judge that if she’s let go, she’ll be good this time.

Meyers says, flat out: no way.

His decision sticks until April Fool’s Day, 2004, when Young/Thomas/Smith and her lawyer take that decision to a higher court judge for review.

In an affidavit filed on her behalf, the woman, a mother to three young kids, claims she suffers from depression and cocaine addiction.

A rehab placement at the Pritchard House is awaiting, she says.

She will live there, get help and not leave the place unless accompanied by a staffer. She also will post $1,000 cash money, not drink alcohol or take drugs and stay away from the victim of the assault.

Justice Colleen Suche agrees to let her go on those conditions.

———-

Fast forward to July 31, 2010.

A woman freshly out on bail and breaching her release conditions is arrested at Mike Allan’s home in Winnipeg’s Lord Roberts neighbourhood.

She had been granted bail June 23, despite the judge’s reservations about her record of violent priors and violations of court orders.

By now, she’s also amassed further convictions for violence and served her first federal prison sentence of 2.5 years.

Neighbours had called in a report to police that there had been some kind of disturbance in the home.

Allan is found dead by officers inside, and the woman is also suspected in a stabbing that occurred a few blocks away. An 18-year-old woman is badly injured in the attack.

Allan, 62, and the woman had just met that night, police say. Allan’s family says the two were drinking beer when there was an escalating argument that turned physical.

The neighbour tells CBC News that the woman had emerged from the home and claimed to have knocked him down.

Allan, a frail, sick man who was also alcoholic, likely couldn’t have put up a fight.

Police said after Allan and the woman had the fight, she left the home and then returned, where she was arrested and held in custody.

Police identify the suspect as Mary Ellen Thomas, 30. She’s charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and multiple bail breaches.

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