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Our judges and prime minister not on same page

By Christopher di Armani
web posted April 10, 2006

Two recent news articles caught my attention, not only because they were related, but because they were so opposite in perspective.

The first, a March 30, 2006 Vancouver Province article titled "No Jail For Sex-Assault Track Coach", described how British Columbia Provincial Court Judge Dennis Devitt sentenced convicted sex offender Glen Haugo to a conditional sentence of two years less a day for his sexual assaults on his teenaged female track students.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper waits to be introduced before speaking at the Canadian Professional Police Association in Ottawa on April 3
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper waits to be introduced before speaking at the Canadian Professional Police Association in Ottawa on April 3

The second was Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech to the Canadian Professional Police Association's board on April 3, 2006. "Finally, we'll get tough on sex offenders and those that prey on our children."

I applaud Prime Minister Harper for his stance on dealing with sexual predators. However, before he worries about DNA data banks and raising the age of consent he needs to make some serious changes to our judiciary.

Canada has a long line of judges who think of sex crimes as minor offenses. Judge Devitt is merely the latest in a long list of judges severely disconnected from reality; judges who should be removed from the bench.

The most notorious statement by a judge was probably British Columbia Judge Peter Vanderhoof, who while giving the sex offender 18-months probation for the sexual assault of a three-year old child, blamed the crime on the child because she was "sexually aggressive".

Manitoba Justice Kerr Twaddle and the Manitoba Court of Appeal feels 9 months is too harsh a sentence for Dean James Bauder. Bauder was convicted of sexually assaulting his children's babysitter. In changing the jail term to a conditional sentence the learned judges claimed the child was a "willing participant", despite claiming at the same time that the sex was "entirely inappropriate and criminal".

Quebec Judge Denys Dionne, in a 1989 trial, said "rules are like women, they're made to be violated".

And let's not forget British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Sherman Hood, who in a 1991 rape case said "at times 'no' may mean 'maybe' or 'wait a while'".

Not for the faint of heart is a trip through any province's Judgments database. Here you can search for a particular crime and see judgments for that crime. Sentences for rapists and child molesters are, almost without exception, horrifyingly light. They certainly have nothing to do with keeping society safe from these predators.

Creating a national DNA data banks is laudable and will help law enforcement to a degree, but unless and until we have a justice system that takes sexual predators seriously, police officers will continue to be frustrated with our judges and their insistence on releasing dangerous offenders with minimal jail terms.

When the arbiters of justice, our judges, can sit on the bench and claim with a straight face that 3-year-olds are to blame for their rape, and that women are "made to be violated", it is clear we as a society are in deep trouble.

That's where Prime Minister Harper comes in. He is our national leader. He must stand tall and show clear leadership.

He must make serious changes to our Justice System, and he must make them now.

An excellent place to start is the removal of judges who show such blatant contempt for the victims of violent crime, for Canada can no longer tolerate judges who condone rape and child molestation.

Christopher di Armani is a freelance writer based in Lytton, BC. He can be contacted at christopher@diarmani.com or visited on the web at http://diArmani.com.

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