Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Courthouse Field Trip: Youth Sentencing

Former Olympic Sprinter, I'm told, Montreal 1976On Friday morning, Prof. Huston took the Children and the Law class to see Youth Sentencing at the court house. The clerk would read out the charge, the youth would plead guilty, the Crown Attorney would read out the facts of the case and the sentence he recommended. Then the defence counsels would mention any differences they had with the account of the facts and any differences they would suggest for the sentence followed by a response from the Crown Attorney. The young defendant would be told to stand up and then Justice Fraser would pronounce the sentence. In one case, an 18-year-old had been 17 when she and two friends went on a shoplifting spree at a Walmart. When they were caught by security in the parking lot there was a scuffle with some swearing. It was hard to imagine the timid young woman who stood before the judge in a scuffle with swearing, but she pleaded guilty. The Crown recommended a sentence that include one year of probation, 20 hours of community service and what appeared to be standard conditions:

  • no going to the place she had committed the crime;
  • no contact with the co-accused (the other girls she'd been out stealing with),
  • to attend whatever programs, such as anger management, her case worker deemed appropriate; and
  • to continue living at home under her parents' rules.
Her defence lawyer agreed that his remorseful client should receive most of the punishments recommended by the Crown, but suggested that the judge might consider not ordering no contact with the co-accused. "The other two girls are sisters and one of them is my client's best friend, her only friend really." He talked about how the other girl like his client wasn't a career criminal and had been on good behaviour since the crime spree and he suggested keeping them apart would do more harm than good. Then he made what some of us thought was a lame attempt to get her out of the 20 hours of community service by pointing out that she would be doing 40 hours already as part of her high school requirements. "That's what a defence lawyer is supposed to do," said Prof. Huston, "try every angle." I'm thinking he might have been giving the judge an way to look tough by not agreeing to everything he asked for. Because the judge did agree to not impose the no-contact order and sentenced her to all the other conditions . And you could tell the Crown wasn't really pushing for it anyway. In his reply to the Defence Lawyer he just said, "as for the no-contact order, we leave that to you, your honour." My only disappointments:
  1. The judge didn't ask any of these young miscreants "Have you learned your lesson?" and
  2. Nobody was sentenced to accordion lessons.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    In some circles, accordion lessons are considered are privilege and not a punishment.