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Anatomy of B.C.’s Failed Justice System

February 4th, 2013 · 18 Comments

Dillan Butler is saying all the right things:he has changed, wants to move forward and be a productive member of society.

That’s great … and I really wish him all the best.

But has justice in BC been fairly served?

Butler is the guy  who in 2008, after a confrontation between two groups of youths in an East Vancouver park, stabbed one 15-year-old FIVE TIMES …twice through ther heart…  killing him instantly and then also stabbed another teenager several times.

Butler, 18, was arrested by police the next day and he then entered the BC justice system … or as some see it, the injustice system.

I was intrigued by a fine piece in The Province this weekend by Jordan Winnett and Jennifer Saltman outlining Butler’s progression through BC’s courts and incarceration..

Butler reportedly was originally charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder for his bloody rampage “after a night of heavy drinking and partying”.

Now the BC “justice” system could go to work in its so-often inept well-established criminal-friendly tradition.

Butler was allowed to plea bargain down to manslaughter in the case of  the youth he murdered, and aggravated assault for the other teenager stabbed multiple times.

That was quite a big reduction in desgnation, considering the severity of the crimes committed!  Butler did not stab these youths once or twice: he bludgeoned each several times.

Yet Butler benefitted substantially from the lower charges:  SIX YEARS in prison for BOTH guilty pleas.  For KILLING one person and MULTIPLE STABBING another.

And that six-year sentence was not the end of the farce.  Remember, this is B.C.

So immediately, Butler was given DOUBLE CREDIT for the time he had already spent in custody before he was sentenced … cutting his federal prison sentence to only THREE YEARS!!!

And what makes me see this as all the more ridiculous is the unanswered question: If he was in custody from the day after the crime and plea-bargained down to a lesser charges … no trial …. why did it take A YEAR AND A HALF to get him to sentencing? And allow him to benefit SUBSTANTIALLY from that delay?

But even that wasn’t the end of it.

In the federal prison system, inmates are AUTOMATICALLY  given a ONE-THIRD discount on their sentence. And, contrary to what of us think,  that does not seem related to good behaviour either.

In custody, Butler was involved in “numerous fights”, broke institutional rules, was disrespectful to staff and spent much of his jail time in segregation…. enough troubles to get him transferred to maximum-security Kent institution.

Even the parole board, according to The Province, found Butler “still had an anti-social attitude, lacked remorse, and struggled to control his anger and impulsive behaviour”.

No problem! THIS is B.C. and Canada!

Butler is already out … on parole at a half-way house … and, frankly,  I DO wish him well and success is staying away from booze and drugs and becoming a productive participant in society.

But what about Deeward Ponte?

Oh, who is Deeward Ponte?   He’s the 15-year-old KILLED by Butler.   What about justice for him? What about his mother? Father? Family?

And what about Clifford Mamuad … he’s the teen also stabbed several times, leading Butler to originally be charged with attempted murder in his case. His brush with death and his suffering seems almost to have been lost in the bigger case.

Seems to me they virtually overlooked/forgotten in the way the BC injustice  (prosecutors, judges, prison system)  handled this case.

And of course, they are not alone. The BC court system has long been GUILTY of failing to take into adequate account the victims of crime … despite YEARS of complaints from many citizens (seeking only justice not  punishment in the extreme).

Would ANYONE whose child is attacked and had his or her life taken away think net three years in jail is justice or fair punishment for the killer, especially one who officials reported “lacked remorse”?

Where is the justice?

Harv Oberfeld

Tags: British Columbia

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 D. M. Johnston // Feb 4, 2013 at 10:34 am

    What I see is a deeply disturbed boy doing a rather nasty act and now is being released by the system. 6 years is not enough, rather I would like him to serve longer and when released, under the supervision of the court for another 10 years at least. he also must have therapy.

    (Response: I agree. We need to improve therapy services in our society for those inside and outside prisonsv d I believe government could find the money to do that if it wanted. (How about starting with the $10 million for the Bollyowood party?) But we also have to give ictims and their families justice … through more appropriate sentences that are actually served. h.o)

    This is what is called throw away justice, where a nobody (and please I do not use this term in a derogatory way, rather a realistic way) is murdered for no reason by a nobody. There is little media attention and the court wants to deal with it as quickly as possible, with little fuss or muss. The court doesn’t care why the murder took place.

    Sidebar: In several counties including Japan, the court wants to know why the crime was done; here they don’t give a damn.

    Our court system isn’t about justice, it is about giving penalties to misdeeds and our politicians have deemed that a teenage boy stabs a 15 year old boy for no good reason and the courts sentences him for 6 years, tells me the politicians don’t give a damn.

    I would wager if the boy was murdered by one of the ‘elite’ families in this province, the penalty would have been much stiffer. For the average nobody in this province, nobody cares.

  • 2 Bruce W // Feb 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Good column Harvey. I’ve felt for years that we have a LEGAL system, not a “justice” system. The victims and their families are almost always forgotten as things “progress” through the courts.

  • 3 Henri // Feb 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    What type of Justice is this you ask?
    This is Liberal-NDP type of Justice….. Even a blind person can see that…

  • 4 Larry Bennett // Feb 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    However, Harvey “elite” could apply to those of Aboriginal descent, though I don’t know if this man was an Aboriginal, or not. Perhaps you do know, or could let us know if this figured in his sentencing.
    I would point out too, the it is the Conservative government that has tried to stop this deluge of stupidity, by taking away from some of these judges the right to make exemptions for so called cultural or “special” considerations. Anyone who shows contempt for the system while doing their time, or who have a bad attitude and an obvious lack of empathy for their victims and their families, should be denied any considerations of early parole!

    (Res[ponse: I don’t know and don’t care. Dead is dead …and the victims deserve justice. h.o)

  • 5 Diverdarren // Feb 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    I took a look at some of the old online news articles about this killing.

    The CBC on Jan 28, 2008 reports the story much the way you relay it, that Butler was the killer, but on the 31st the CBC reports the police wrongly charged Butler and decided to charge Butler’s friend,Roseller Salvacion with 2nd degree murder. Then sometime after a plea of manslaughter was agreed to.

    It looks like the Crown had some problems with the case right at the start. Was manslaughter the best the Crown could hope to achieve?

    It may be unsavory to the public, but a killing that is mitigated by provocation and reduced judgement due to alcohol is often earns a reduced penalty. Plus the judge; Madam Justice Janice Dillon has a history of “forgiving” crimes with alcohol as a contribute. (ie. her decision in the Monty Robinson killing)

    For the public to believe justice has been served it must not only produce justice but be SEEN as producing justice. I think Crown Prosecution Services owes the public answers as to why the need for a plea so that the public can see if actual justice was done.

    (Response: Criminal charges in group action circumstances can be complicated: in some jurisdictions, amyone pqrtcipating in a crime can be held responsible for murder …not only the actual individual who did the deed. But even if manslaughter was the plea-bargained result…along with aggravated assault in the other stabbing, the judge should have handed down a proper sentence …esp being aware of the two-for-one existing pre-trial custody discount and one-third federal discount. The victims, their families and society deserved more. h.o)

  • 6 Gary T // Feb 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Don’t judges in Canada have the right to say no to ridiculous ” plea bargains ” ?
    ** slaps self hard **, I forgot for a moment what our judges are about, certainly not true punishment & justice for victims.

  • 7 D. M. Johnston // Feb 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Yes we have a legal system and not a justice system and thank god for that. Justice, or the American version anyways, is about retribution, where a legal system has laws and penalties for those who break the law.

    Here we have two teen boy and one brutally stabs the other to death; the law should provide a penalty that fits the crime and I do think 6 years is way too short.

    But there is more here, as the guilty party, in my mind, suffers from from a mental defect and a serious one at that.

    This poses the question: Did anyone take the time to ask why he did it? Do we care?

    The family of the boy that was murdered, must take solace in the fact that the murderer was caught and convicted and though many of us believe that justice was not served, for all intents and purposes it has.

    Personally, as I have stated before, I believe the person in question suffers from a mental defect, yet society does nothing as the government prefers to spend money on roofs for stadiums, over priced metros and bridges, bollywood awards, etc, etc.

    6 years is too short a sentence for murder and I do hope this person will be under supervision for many years to come.

    Sadly, there little comfort for the family of the murdered boy.

    (Response: From what I read, there was an altercation between two groups of teenagers. And I have to admit that whenever I hear of extreme violence cases (or even some massive frauds etc.) I think the guilty person MUST be mentally ill to some extent …but that’s because I’m so “square” on these things. And I realuize there IS a difference in court between having emotional issues and being criminally responsible. And I don’t think most of us want the extreme and sometimes ridiculous jail times handed down in the US … but six years …and then deduct all the discounts our system provides …is just unfair to the victim and forever-to-be-grieving family. h.o)

  • 8 harry lawson // Feb 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    great post,

    a former attorney general told me justice is a perception. and yes it is true.
    i do not agree with mandatory release . i do not agree with parole when the behavior does not warrant it.
    i have a friend who did time in the 1959′s he never got in trouble again i asked him why ? he said back then it was a deterent now it is just a place to get your teeth fixed.
    yes justice is a perception

  • 9 13 // Feb 4, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    If we ended parole. If we had manditory minimum scentences. If we had the death penalty. If we punished the person that commited the crime with total disregard for his ethnic background. If we eliminated all of the criteria that is used to calculate “early” release. If we elected judges. If we adopted a 2 /3/ 4 strikes and your out .
    Maybe then we could tell ourselves that justice was being served. Maybe then the victims of these horific crimes (and survivng family members) would be able to feel closure.
    Our current system tortures the survivors and rewards the criminals

  • 10 Islander // Feb 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    It is not just sentances for serious crimes that are being botched in the courts.

    Late last year a local boat owner was fined $7,500 because he came ‘too close’ to a pod of killer whales and ‘may’ have caused them stress. At about the same time, the same courts dropped all charges against Grieg Seafood for illegally killing 62 sea lions and four seals caught in their fish farm nets.

    Many of the Stanley Cup rioters are getting off without jail time — people who were videoed right in the thick of it, looting and damaging property.

    Night after night, we hear similar stories on the news.

    The old saw, ‘Not only must justice be done, but seem to be done’, has long been forgotten by the system.

  • 11 Larry Bennett // Feb 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Harry Lawson – “…. just a place to get your teeth fixed”! That not only says a lot about the criminal mind, it says a lot about our so-called justice system. My brother has no bottom teeth left, and has never been in jail, just hasn’t got the money. Who is suffering the most here. Can’t get a job, and hasn’t the nerve to steal (nor the want to)?

  • 12 Scotty on Denman // Feb 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Two things: can critics of the justice system balance their opinion with reasons why crime is offence against the state and no award is due victims (“victims” pluralized to include aggrieved relatives to the actual victim(s))? It appears the desire for revenge would also arbitrarily disallow mitigating circumstance in sentencing.

    Second: we hear an increasingly familiar lament that “every day criminals are getting off scot free” , a gross overgeneralization that presumes the correct measure of public opprobrium is the number of times capital sentencing, particularly those which reflect the judges’ recognition of mitigating circumstances, is mentioned in news media; however, it should be understood that news media use a difference kind of criminal judgement where a verdict of outrage is assured, supported by evidence that reportage on criminal justice has generally fomented similar outrage in the past and that present sympathetic reporting, biased as it might be, will probably sustain it. Of course the bias lies in focusing on the more attention-grabbing cases (reportage that often sneers at evidence of mitigating circumstance with respect to a specific case) and ignores the remainder of cases where sentencing is considered just. Unfortunately the resulting prejudice becomes its own fuel in the usual way and we’re left to wonder how far it will be carried.

    Primitive Anglo Saxon law legitimized revenge and trials by combat or ordeal; interminable feuds became, then sustained inevitability. Wergeld (‘man-gold’) failed to restore order because it failed to eliminate personal retribution for capital offences and, where the guilty party could not pay the wergeld, remedy by personal blood vendetta was legitimate, which usually initiated again endless blood feuding. Revenge feeds on itself. Victimhood extended to all blood relatives through generations, revenge naturally growing in atrocity out of all proportion to the original wrong–if indeed anyone could even remember it. In this legal chaos rumour and historical revisionism could foment war. Making capital offences wrongs against the state and outlawing personal revenge for wrongs between individuals is the solution, and definition of criminal law. Cries for revenge certainly sell advertising for news media but revenge isn’t an element of justice. Been there, done that.

    It would be educative to find out if judges really do serially let criminals off the hook. That would require a look at every sentence and how each was formulated. I admit I find this particular sentence too light on surface but I don’t yet know what details might reasonably be considered mitigating against a longer sentence; until I do I can’t possibly say if it’s too lenient ( the vengeful tone in much news media, and especially in righteously indignant threads makes this info suspect.) I won’t be convinced judges are always too lenient by the submission of only the most egregious cases as proof.

  • 13 Gini // Feb 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I suppose we should be happy that he actually did some time, instead of being found ‘not criminally responsible’, as is the ‘verdict du jour’. How many murderers are now out walking among us after spending a few month in what I like to call ‘Club B.C. Med’?

    Do you think our ‘injustice system’ can be fixed, Harv? Do you think we will see any improvement when (or if) Adrian Dix becomes our next Premier?

    (Response: It CAN be changed ….and I believe both Ottawa and Victoria are getting the message…closing loopholes like double credit for pre-trial. I believe the big problem is finding a way (mandatory minimums?) to free up the judges, who always say they are bound by previous precedents. ..so one injustice keeps getting followed by another! Maybe increasing the sentencing ranges would open sentencing up to more options for judges. We don’t want “hanging” judges either, but the existing judges must do better to overcome what I believe are their own biases/sympathies towards the interests of the accused, and their lawyers, who they often know personally or by reputation… and start thinking more about the victims and their families. h.o.)

  • 14 kootcoot // Feb 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    “I would wager if the boy was murdered by one of the ‘elite’ families in this province, the penalty would have been much stiffer. For the average nobody in this province, nobody cares.”

    Perhaps this is a typo, because I would imagine there would be more outrage and a stiffer sentence if the victim was from an elite family. Look at the difference in attention paid to the murder of the jogging relative of Peter Ladner in Pt. Grey compared to the lack of attention paid to dozens of missing aboriginal women from the DTES for years.

    And I was happy to see old Monty Robinson appropriately mentioned in this discussion. I mean for a spell there he was murdering someone on an annual basis as he ran over the motorcyclist while intoxicated the year after killing the Polish immigrant at YVR. Has Monty even lost his job yet or is he still on paid vacation?

  • 15 crazy eh... // Feb 9, 2013 at 9:41 am

    We really have never had a justice system. A legal system is not the same thing. True, perception is everything, the result is a system of revolving door trials and sentencing. Most of these take far too long and in the end, leave the victim’s wondering what was the point.

    “Broken” you bet it is….

  • 16 avengingangel // Feb 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    This is definitely a system which favours the criminals over the victims and a society which leans towards a very PC way of administering justice. I got my first taste of this when I was a youth and first heard of the Clifford Olson case and how he scored 90k for his wife in return for grave sites of his victims. Sick. Since then not a year has gone by where a story of criminal injustice hasn’t sickened me to the core.

  • 17 r // Feb 12, 2013 at 6:13 am

    revolving door also without little help.

    http://www.vancourier.com/12th+Cambie+chronic+offenders+prowling+around+Vancouver/7916762/story.html

  • 18 Cam // Feb 17, 2013 at 8:13 am

    We do not even have a “legal system”. We have a “legal industry”. the whole point of this protracted trial system is to provide as much income as possible to the participant lawyers and judges in the system. It is all about billable hours.

    Lawyers and judges don’t make a dime off victims, therefore they do not count. It’s the criminals who pay the bills, or society who pays the bills for them. Best to get the bad guys back on the streets so they can commit more mayhem, thus getting charged again, thus starting the legal gravy train all over again.

    The happy enablers of this farce are, of course, the politicians, both provincial and federal, the vast majority of whom are lawyers.

    I challenge everyone to go pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages in any community. You will find the lawyer section to be one of the biggest in the book, far greater than doctors, mechanics, restaurants, or any other. The implication is that with the system we have now, you are far more likely to need a lawyer, than to get sick, fix your car, or go for pizza.

    A sad commentary on the state of our society.