Victim’s Voices to be Heard in Canadian Courts

_DSC4179 - Version 2Cretins, crooks, and convicts beware… the days of focusing on your hurts, habits and hang-ups will soon be superseded by a new Bill of Rights for victims, courtesy of Bill C-32, the Conservative government’s fulfillment of its election promise to recognize the forgotten victims of your crimes.

With the passing of this new law, victims will be empowered to ask questions and get answers about their offender’s history, bail conditions, plea bargains, parole terms, and other assorted procedures that to date have forced victims to strain to look inside the halls of justice, from a vantage point obscured by savvy defence lawyers and complacent prosecutors.

Case in point: an Ontario mother’s son was stabbed eighteen times with a penknife, suffering a horrible demise. His mother counted on Canada’s justice system to punish the offender in a manner commensurate with the brutality of the crime. When she learned, after the fact, about the plea deal that saw a reduced charge with a lenient prison term she and her family felt as if their son’s death was nothing more than an inconvenience, a second victimization.

The high-profile sentencing of pedophile Graham James to a mere two-year jail term rightly astonished his victims, adult survivors of James’ sick sexual proclivities. Thankfully, the Manitoba Court of Appeal righted the wrong by increasing his sentence to five years, still not enough for a man who repeatedly victimized young hockey players.

The proposed legislation also provides that where a victim loses his or her life, surviving family members and conjugal partners will have the ability to exercise the rights that would have been available to the victim, had he or she survived. Of course, family members charged and convicted of interfamilial homicide would not enjoy these rights.

With the new law, victim impact statements must be considered by sentencing judges and the ramifications of the victim’s physical, emotional, psychological, and financial scars will play a more central role. As well, under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights specialized bodies will be established to review complaints from victims or their families whose rights under the legislation have been breached. Financial restitution will also be available.

Quite properly, the rights granted will not be permitted to impede or interfere with police investigations or prosecutorial discretion, nor can they be used to create excessive delay. Indeed, the new Bill of Rights will not give victims of crime any status as parties or interveners in criminal law proceedings. These rights are designed to address victim’s concerns without overburdening the justice system.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the proposed law. Not surprisingly, several criminal defence lawyers oppose the bill, including Toronto’s always colourful Clayton Ruby who said the law was a “mess of porridge”, nothing more than a political ploy to sucker victims of crime.

Other naysayers include the John Howard Society, whose mandate is to advocate for offenders, particularly upon their release from prison. Meanwhile the Assembly of First Nations have complained they were not consulted, a startling proposition if it is accurate, considering the rampant victimization of aboriginal girls and women post- Willie Pickton.

While the bill may not go far enough for some, it is Canada’s first recognition that victims of crime deserve courtesy, respect, and compassion.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Hockey Pedophile Graham James Receives Longer Sentence From Appeal Court

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Canadian National Hockey League star Theo Fleury, winner of a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal does not mince words. He says that Canada is a “Disneyland for pedophiles” and I think he’s right.

Fleury was yet another victim of Graham James, the now infamous hockey coach and mentor, who sexually abused young boys under his tutelage, ruining their lives in the process. Convicted in 1997 for sexually abusing professional hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, he was then sentenced to a mere three and a half years in prison for multiple criminal counts involving Mr. Kennedy and another young man. He served only eighteen months.

It was Sheldon Kennedy who encouraged Theo Fleury to report the abuse he suffered at the hands of James in the 1980′s. The police investigated and filed new charges against Graham James, who plead guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2012.

At the time of the new charges, it came to light that Mr. James had received a federal pardon in 2007, an event that shocked the Canadian public and led to federal legislation excluding sex offenders from receiving pardons, now called “record suspensions”.

But James foolishly appealed his two-year sentence, his lawyer arguing that he should have received no jail time at all. The Manitoba Court of Appeal heard the case on December 3, 2012 and fortunately, Mr. James’ appeal strategy backfired. Today the Appeal Court increased Mr. James’ jail term from two years to five years.

In my view, the initial two-year sentence was the revictimization of Mr. Fleury and impotent sentencing for pedophiles is abhorrent, given the aftermath of damaged victims who struggle with substance addictions and broken relationships, which can be directly linked to the shame and fear emanating from the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of sexual abuse.

Kudos to Mr. Fleury who recently announced that he has taken the sentencing of pedophiles as a project to champion a change in sentencing and support other victims of these atrocious crimes. His first recommendation? Minimum sentences of fifteen years in prison for each count of sexual abuse, additional counts to run consecutively, rather than concurrently, which is the situation today.

Mr. Fleury praised the Manitoba Court of Appeal for increasing sex predator James’ sentence, calling it a good day for survivors of sexual abuse.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Is Canada a Disneyland for Pedophiles?

DSC00280Canadian National Hockey League star Theo Fleury, winner of a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal makes no bones about it. He says that Canada is a “Disneyland for pedophiles” and I think he’s right.

Fleury was yet another victim of Graham James, the now infamous hockey coach and mentor, who sexually abused young boys under his tutelage, ruining their lives in the process. Convicted in 1997 for sexually abusing professional hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, he was then sentenced to a mere three and a half years in prison for multiple criminal counts involving Mr. Kennedy and another young man. He served only eighteen months.

It was Sheldon Kennedy who encouraged Theo Fleury to report the abuse he suffered at the hands of James in the 1980′s. The police investigated and filed charges against Graham James, who plead guilty and was sentenced to two years in March of this year.

But he appealed his two-year sentence, his lawyer arguing that he should have received no jail time at all. The Manitoba Court of Appeal heard the case on December 3, 2012 and have yet to hand down their decision. The Crown originally sought a six-year sentence, but at the appeal hearing suggested a four-year sentence. Mr. James recently became eligible for parole, but has not made an application.

The lack of severity in the sentencing process is, in my view, the revictimization of young men whose messed-up lives and drug and alcohol addictions can be directly linked to the shame and fear of the physical, emotional and psychological aftermath of years of abuse. Abuse from a respected and trusted member of the community… a man who in hindsight deserved no respect, but rather condemnation and denunciation.

By sentencing Graham James to short prison terms, the message is loud and clear. It says “we don’t take pedophilia seriously in Canada”. To think that an offence like criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to a road crime can be almost equivalent in prison time to Mr. James’ two-year sentence is astounding.

Kudos to Mr. Fleury who announced this month that he has taken the sentencing of pedophiles as a project, to champion a change in sentencing and support other victims of these atrocious crimes. His first recommendation? Minimum sentences of fifteen years in prison for each count of sexual abuse, additional counts to run consecutively, rather than concurrently, which is the situation today.

One thing is for sure: If pedophiles know they will be locked away for fifteen years or more, the goal of specific deterrence will be achieved.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang