No Justice for Murdered Surrey Hockey Mom

DSC00280If you ask a resident of British Columbia what the murder capital of Canada is they may well tell you it’s Surrey. But they’d be wrong. The latest statistics tell us that it is Regina, Saskatchewan, followed by Toronto, Ontario.

However, that is cold comfort for victims of violent crimes across Canada, and in particular the family of Julie Paskall, the 53-year old Surrey mother who was attacked while waiting in the Newton arena parking lot to pick up her 16-year old son who was refereeing a hockey game.

Her son left the arena expecting to see his mom waiting for him as she regularly did, but instead he saw her on the ground surrounded by blood and scrambling paramedics. She had been brutally beaten and was rushed to hospital where she died two days later, on December 31, 2013.

Ms. Paskall’s murder shocked the neighbourhood and surrounding communities, who had become complacent with the ever-increasing toll of gangland slayings. But this was entirely different. This was a loving mother of three children, happily married to her high school sweetheart, and well-known in the community for her volunteerism.

A public memorial was packed with friends, neighbours and strangers. Her husband remarked that the outpouring of grief and sympathy was overwhelming, with cards and condolences coming from all over Canada and as far afield as Hong Kong and Sweden.

Mayor Diane Watts reminded the community their anger was understandable but that justice would prevail.

Unfortunately, Ms. Watts was wrong on that score. Last week Yosef Gopaul pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for Ms. Paskall’s death and a second robbery that took place two weeks before he attacked Ms. Paskall with a rock the size of a grapefruit. His DNA was on the rock and he confessed to an undercover police officer.

He said he only wanted to steal her purse and couldn’t believe he had caused her death. Gopaul had only been in B.C. for eight weeks prior to the murder, coming from Ontario.

While Gopaul attempted to say all the right things at his sentencing hearing his words rang hollow. The Crown informed the Court that at age 28 he had rung up 29 convictions, including six for violent offences, and although charged with second degree murder, a “deal with the devil” saw him escape with only a manslaughter conviction. With time served his sentence will be ten years, and he will likely only serve a portion of that before work release and parole.

In my view the sentence is unfit and an insult to the Paskall family and the community of Surrey who were told and expected that justice would prevail. I suspect it is easier (and cheaper) for the Crown to offer a plea deal than to run a challenging second degree murder trial. Even with DNA and a confession, the Crown refused to roll the dice which I suspect was because Ms. Paskall died from a pre-existing cardiac condition that took her life when she was beaten by this habitual criminal.

Perhaps if the Crown and the Courts had taken Mr. Gopaul’s previous serial criminality more seriously, he would have been locked up after his sixth violent offence. As it is, he will be free sooner that you think, making the Paskall murder beyond a tragedy.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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5 thoughts on “No Justice for Murdered Surrey Hockey Mom

  1. As a resident of Surrey I thank you for putting in words my exact feelings from this tragic event. Ms. Paskall may have had a cardiac event that night but in my mind the root cause of her demise is because she was hit in the head by a rock by a repeat loser and that is murder in any rational mind.

  2. The appropriate sentence was life with no chance of Parole for 25 years. We see what the Conservative government is up against, when trying to change things to realistically reflect what Canadians want. The Judges kick back at minimum sentences. Judges complain about the ending of the remand time served discount. The Supreme Court is out of control on social values related to protection of the public for the most serious violent offenders. And federal Liberals argue for the opposite trend…go figure.

  3. The problem is not the judge, but the plea bargain approach to extra-judicial justice. This is often an inequitable “bargain”, where two parties with different motivations other than doing justice get to agree what justice is. The judge’s hands are then tied to a range that is compatible with the prosecution bounds.

    In the US the plea bargain system has been shown to be a major cause for why black males are over-represented in the prison population, caused by lazy prosecutors (Crown in Canada) who are looking to chalk up notches rather than do real justice.

    Canada is closer to the US than the English system of justice that it draws its laws from, where I believe there is no such concept as a plea bargain, and all prosecutions are to the maximum extent if the law, without plea bargains that constrain the judge.

  4. You are right…the sense is that the Crown will not take a case to trial unless it is a slam-dunk. If they actually have to “put their nose to the grindstone”, they’ll offer a plea deal every time. Thanks for your comment!

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