The Winnipeg Sun n Wednesday, november 16, 2011

NEWS

5

Quit the coddling
Law offers way too much protection for kids and drunks who kill
Eliminating the excuse of drunkenness as a defence in homicides and overhauling the Youth Criminal Justice Act would be two good places to start if we want to crack down on Winnipeg’s burgeoning murder problem. Why? Because in so many cases, drunk killers use their inebriation as a defence to reduce their charges. And in many other homicides, kid killers use their age to get off scot-free in the courts. Winnipeg has hit a record 35 homicides this year, breaking the city’s 2004 high of 34 killings. There is no magic bullet on how to reduce the number of homicides in this crime-infested city. Bu t I ca n t h i n k o f t w o laws that should be changed immediately to ensure at least some killers are held accountable for their crimes. Let’s start with the drunk defence.

too much dEath

Raising Hell
@raisinghellwpg

BrodBEck

Tom

tom.brodbeck@sunmedia.ca blogs.canoe.ca/raisinghell

Proof of intent
“Your honour, my client was completely inebriated when he bludgeoned the victim to death and he didn’t know what he was doing,” says the sly defence lawyer. “Therefore, your honour, there is no evidence before the court that can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my client’s attack was a deliberate act.” And with no proof of intent, the most the killer can be convicted of is manslaughter, rather than first- or seconddegree murder. And since manslaughter carries no mandatory minimum sentence, drunk killers often get off with exceptionally lenient sentences.

That’s what happened to Ivan Anderson last summer. He was drunk when he and another guy beat a man to death in 2008 in a Manitoba Housing suite on Smith Street in downtown Winnipeg. Anderson was originally charged with second-degree m u r d e r. B u t t h e C r o w n accepted a guilty plea on the lesser charge of manslaughter because the killer was drunk at the time of the killing. He got five years. And with credit for double-time served, he walked the day of sentencing. Why do we do that? Why do we allow drunkenness to serve as a defence in any violent crime? We need a Criminal Code amendment that states unequivocally drunken-

ness or intoxication of any kind cannot be used as a defence in criminal proceedings. That’s No. 1. No. 2 is we need to start treating kid killers like adults. Of the 35 homicides this year, 11 accused killers were under 18. You can’t tell me a 14-, 15or 16-year-old kid doesn’t know what he’s doing when he takes a hammer to someone or stabs a victim with a steak knife. They know exactly what they’re doing. And in some cases, they’re doing it for gang initiation purposes. They also know that under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, very little will happen to them if they do get caught. They’re not stupid. They learn that on the street. The YCJA should be changed so anyone under the act convicted of homicide is automatically sentenced as an adult. That doesn’t mean they go to adult jail. It means they are incarcerated for a very long time.

And once we get that law on the books, we could start talking about setting up boot camps or wilderness camps to separate these young killers from the poisonous environments they came from. What we do now is send them back to those poisonous environments — untreated — after a brief stay at the Manitoba Youth Centre. And then we w o n d e r w hy they reoffend.

Would these steps solve Winnipeg’s high murder rate problem overnight? Obviously not. But it would help. It would send out the message if you take the life of another, you will be faced with a long penitentiary term, period. And while you’re serving that term, you won’t be able to

hurt anyone else on the outside. It’s the kind of stance we need to take against the growing culture of violence in this city.

should laWs BE chaNGEd?
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