(This column was published in the North Shore News on May 30, 2001)

 

Conditional sentences lax

By Leo Knight

THERE is not a cop anywhere who hasn't shaken his or her head in helpless frustration as a court inexplicably lets free an offender who desperately needs to be kept behind bars.  

 

And so it was in Saanich earlier this month, on the day before the body of the missing little Lethbridge girl, Jessica Koopmans, was found. The Province newspaper told part of the story of Mark Istephan, a 30-year-old Island man who received an 18-month conditional sentence for trying to abduct a 13-year-old Victoria girl.  

 

For nearly the last decade Istephan has been stalking women. And if that's not bad enough, while under police investigation for over 50 incidents, he tried to grab the young teen.  

 

The case was being driven by North Vancouver RCMP investigators after one of their own was being stalked by this -- and I use the term loosely -- man. But Istephan didn't stop there. He also set his sights on a female West Vancouver police officer.  

 

Police investigating him stepped up their operation to bust this creep, but in a symptom of the realities of police work in these bizarre times, the surveillance operation had to stop when Istephan boarded a ferry for the island.  

 

As much as that irks in itself, it was the order of the court following Istephan's conviction that really rankles. An 18-month conditional sentence is wholly inappropriate.  

 

Especially when the residence he is ordered to live in by the court shares a back fence with the playground of an elementary school.  

 

The judge in the case turns out to be none other than Ernie Quantz, who, as Assistant Deputy Attorney General, OK'd the infamous, sweetheart deal given to former Burnaby school principal and convicted pedophile William Bennest. Not to mention the non-prosecution of Dr. John Gossage in spite of the 40-plus complainants. And there were other controversial situations while he was serving in the attorney general's office.  

 

In fact, his appointment to the bench occurred fairly recently and with very little fanfare by the outgoing NDP. An appointment granted, no doubt, for his years of faithful service.  

 

Now it must be said that I am not suggesting that Quantz has done anything specifically wrong or unethical. In fact, when I spoke to some people I know and respect about Quantz, I was assured he was a professional and ethical man. But the question remains whether he subscribes to the failed philosophies of his former bosses.  

 

It was Dosanjh who pushed the conditional sentencing provisions now so prevalent by our courts. It was Quantz who was responsible for the implementation of these ridiculous rules.  

 

Dosanjh said time and again publicly that conditional sentencing was to be used as an alternative to custodial sentencing only in cases involving non-violent offenders. The reality is quite different as was demonstrated in the case of Mark Istephan.  

 

The police said he is a high risk to re-offend.  

 

The Crown prosecutor said he is a high risk to re-offend. Quantz even agreed with that assessment in delivering his sentence.  

 

Istephan has demonstrated no respect for women as young as 13 years old. He hunts for female targets to stalk.  

 

He physically grabbed a young girl and tried to abduct her off the street. Is that not in itself a violent offence?  

 

Quantz fumbled this opportunity to be measured in his new job. Considering it was his responsibility in the AG's office to implement the administration of the courts and the criminal justice system, it is perhaps telling that he could not bring himself to jail a man who so desperately needed it for the good of society.  

 

Even after being thrown out of office in as loud and clear a manner as possible, it seems the fallout of the failed principles of the NDP will be with us for a long time to come.  

 

I hope Quantz thanked Dosanjh for his "job for life."  

 

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