Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We should stop punishing those who couldn't be convicted today

We should stop punishing those who couldn't be convicted today
by Doug Milroy, from The Sault Star, January 2011.

For those of you who believe anyone convicted of murder, no matter how tenuous the circumstances, should be punished for the rest of his or her life, you will like this one.

As I have detailed in this space many times, John Moore was convicted of second-degree murder in 1978 even though evidence showed he was not present when cab driver Donald Lanthier was slain by Gordon Stevens and Terry Hogan in a ravine off Third Line in 1978.

He was convicted on the basis of a law, declared ultra vires in 1987 and therefore no longer applicable in the Criminal Code of Canada, that "he knew, or ought to have known," that Stevens and Hogan were planning to commit an armed robbery as he had been in their company earlier in the day.

Moore, who served 10 years in prison, has always maintained his innocence and has been battling with the justice system for years to get his sentence overturned, but lately to at least get some relief from his life-time parole.

If you wonder why such relief is important to Moore, consider the "instruction" from the Correctional Service of Canada (Parole), the entity which effectively controls his life, in regard to his request that he be

allowed to travel to Sault Ste. Marie to visit his mother for Christmas.

In it, parole officer Peter Moore tells Moore the travel pass is good for Dec. 23 to Dec. 27 with the following restrictions:

* He is not to board any bus providing public transportation within the city of Sault Ste. Marie;

* He is not to enter any of the grocery stores conducting business under the name of No Frills;

* He is to avoid contact with the family of the victim of his offence.

The idea behind the instruction apparently is to prevent Moore from accidentally coming into contact with any member of Lanthier's family. As such, I am surprised, since the instruction is so wide-ranging anyway, that Martell didn't go so far as to ban Moore from visiting local malls.

But the requirements as they stand, which haven't been applied to Moore previously, are stringent enough to be ridiculous.

I especially take issue with the instruction banning him from using the local transit system to get around.

Travelling from his Sudbury home to the Sault by bus and living on welfare, this virtually condemns him to walking everywhere he goes because he certainly can't afford cab fare.

The Crown didn't have any evidence to charge Moore with conspiracy to commit a crime, so it went with the ought-to-have-known offence, a law that was almost impossible to defend against. This was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada which, in 1987, overturned the conviction of Yvan Vaillancourt, even though he was present when his accomplice in a robbery of a convenience store shot and killed the clerk.

Moore has caused no trouble since his release from prison in 1987. In fact, he thwarted a robbery at a convenience store in Sudbury.

So I say again: I think it is time we as a society should be able to find a way out of continuing to hang a lifetime of punishment on someone from the past when no one could be convicted under similar circumstances today.

That isn't much to ask.

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