(This column was published in the North Shore News on Aug. 15, 2001)


Machete Eddie's story indicts justice system

By Leo Knight

IN 1987, Eddie Lakes hacked off the head of Donald Duplessis in the schoolyard of St. Thomas Aquinas on West Keith Road. Well, not quite, actually. The victim's head was still attached by a thin sliver of skin.


For some bizarre reason, Lakes managed to convince the courts that the killing was the result of an argument and subsequently earned himself a manslaughter conviction instead of murder.


He also earned the dubious nickname of "Machete Eddie."


By the time he was convicted some five years later, he was sentenced to time served plus a day and probation for two years. He was also given a firearms prohibition for five years. Evidently not something he was concerned about when he was convicted later that same year of carrying a concealed weapon. He got three years for that offence.


His next victim, in 1996, was the hard-working owner of a jewelry store in Mission. That poor man had the misfortune to be behind the counter when the bloodthirsty killer stuck a shotgun in his face. Evidently, armed robbery was not enough of a thrill. He blew the jewelry store owner away with a blast of the big gun.


He was sentenced to six years in 1997 for that transgression and has just been released on parole. Machete Eddie is out again.


I don't know yet where Lakes will reside. His parents still live on the North Shore and certainly that is where he was raised.


But it really doesn't matter where he lives in society, the ugly fact remains that he should not be let out of prison, ever. If hacking off the head of a person doesn't merit permanent incarceration in this country, then surely the second cold-blooded murder of the jewelry store owner should have guaranteed the key was thrown away forever.


But it didn't. So what, do you suppose, will be the excuses used by the system when he kills his next victim and society becomes enraged yet again?


The systemic failure of our justice system is embodied in the case of Eddie Lakes. If only he were the sole failure. But it happens time and time again.


We are left with the broken hearts and spirits of the victims and their families and the platitudes of officials who spout off the usual rhetoric about rehabilitation.


What nonsense. Over the years in these pages, I have told you of the many failures and how the same individuals keep coming before the bar of justice time after time.


I have described the frustration of judges who cannot do what they know in their heart is the right thing; to protect the public. And, I have told you about the superior court judges who seem to have forgotten what their purpose in society is and have fallen to their knees worshipping at the altar of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, vacating their responsibility to protect us in favour of coddling the criminal element.


For every convict who sees the error of his ways and manages not to run afoul of the law again, there are thousands of Eddie Lakes. That is the reality.


The hand-wringing social architects simply cannot come to grips with the fact that people like Eddie Lakes are beyond salvage.


Look at the situation with serial pedophile Karl Toft. Two-thirds of the way through a 13-year sentence for molesting hundreds of boys at Kingsclear in New Brunswick, and they try to release him onto the streets of Edmonton. It was only the national public howls of protest that forced an 11th-hour diversion to a Saskatoon psychiatric facility.


But the move is only temporary. Toft will be released as soon as Corrections Canada thinks they can get away with it. He attended the therapy programs, you see. He deserves another chance, they say.


Well, a leopard doesn't change its spots. And neither will Karl Toft or Eddie Lakes. Unfortunately, neither it seems, does the system that allows these people to perpetrate their criminal acts.


That only spells tragedy for their next victims.







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