Saturday, December 16, 2006

Judicial musings right on point

The comments of Calgary Police Constable Shaun Horne have stimulated a lively debate over the problems with the justice system in this country. Horne said the system is a "mockery" and a "joke" and got slapped by the weak-kneed management of his department for his trouble when he was suspended a week without pay.

Lost in the discussion this week were the comments by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Pat Sullivan when sentencing Barrett Darr, 22, for cold-bloodedly leaving his 17 year-old girlfriend to die in a ditch after he rolled a stolen SUV.

When sentencing him to 33 months in prison, Mr. Justice Sullivan said something that speaks to exactly what it was that caused the frustration in Cst. Horne to boil over. In referring to the easy ride Darr had been given in his many previous trips through the revolving door of justice, Sullivan said, "Maybe if we hadn’t been so soft in the beginning, maybe if the judiciary had tightened the harness earlier on, perhaps we wouldn’t be here today."

Almost a throw-away line really in the sentencing hearing, but oh, so terribly telling.

The justice system has been getting softer and softer to the point where it is very hard to do something egregious enough to actually go to jail. Conditional sentences have become all too common in our criminal courts with the advocation of house arrest seen by the chattering classes as a suitable replacement for jail.

Mr. Justice Sullivan got it exactly right in his musings if not in the actual term he gave Darr for his crimes. Cst. Horne's frustration with the system caused his outburst, but it is not without merit and Mr. Justice Sullivan underlined the point.

Leo Knight

1 comment:

Bettina Paley said...

I realize that it has been several year since you wrote this about the judicial system, but I am now in the state of mind to reply. Thank you...thank you for quoting Justice Sullivan and for making a point that the system just does not work. Even though Darr was sentenced to 33 months, he was already in a half way house the following summer, after serving a little more than 6 months for killing my daughter! More proof of the lack of teeth in the system.
We found out about the early release while sitting in our lawyers office preparing to sign papers regarding a wrongful death suit. Needless to say, I was much so that I wanted to beat him to a pulp with a baseball bat myself. I lost all sence of reality for a little while and wanted revenge and I didn't care about anything else. He had to pay I thought, and I was going to make him pay. I didn't do anything, I went home, cried some more and calmed down, as that is no way to honour my daughter's life and memory, let alone set a good example for Suzanne's surviving sisters and extended family.
This coming Sunday wil be the 7th Angel-versary of Suzanne's passing and we (our family) will be out at the accident site (just east of Hussar, Alberta at the junction of highways 561 & 56) to replace her photo and add more flowers to her Roadside Memorial. We go there several times a year, and each time is just as painful and emotional as the time before.
I wonder if Darr ever thinks about our young girl...what her life could have been like, and most importantly, what was taken away from all the people who knew and loved Suzanne. Her younger sister, Jaillenne (11 at the time of Suzanne's death) has grown older every second for the last 18 months than Suzanne ever was, and is still, every day, having a difficult time dealing with that fact. Suzanne's older sister, Michelle (20 at the time of Suzanne's death), who was 3 1/2 when Suzanne was born had come to terms with the loss of her younger sister, but still has dreams about her and how much was stolen from that nearly tiwn-like bond that Michelle and Suzanne shared. They had planned a double wedding while they were growing that will never happen, and it's tearing Michelle apart bit by bit.
There is so much more I could go on and on about Suzanne, our family, her friends, and what could have been, but I won't. I'll just close with saying the Canadian Justice System will not change until or unless this type of horrible tragity hits an important politician personally...then watch it change!
Thank you for your time.
Bettina Paley