(This column was published in the North Shore News on July 28, 1999)

 

Public scrutiny key to justice system

By Leo Knight

ONE of the cornerstones of our democracy relates to the justice system.  

 

The old maxim states that justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done. In simple terms, our courts are supposed to be open to the public and the media to act as watchdogs to ensure the system is working in the manner that we, the public, want.  

 

It is with these thoughts in mind we need to have a look at a court case taking place in Vancouver at 222 Main St.  

 

The case involves a 24-year-old man from Langdale on the Sunshine Coast. Now, it must first be understood that I cannot discuss certain elements of this case because it is still before the courts. But, since no ban on publication currently exists, information brought out in open court can be reported.  

 

The accused, Douglas Andrew Macintyre, has managed to rally a whole community. Unfortunately for him, they are decidedly not on his side.  

 

The case began last March when, in an unprecedented move, the police in Gibsons were informed by a psychologist about Macintyre's psychological state and his sadistic fantasies about little girls aged six to 12. The police were alarmed at the information provided and began paying attention to the guy who, they were to learn, was often running around after dark wearing full camouflage gear and carrying weapons.  

 

With information concerning violations of the Wildlife Act the Mounties raided Macintyre's house. Among other things found, the RCMP discovered a document described to the court as a plan to kidnap and rape two young girls after rendering them unconscious.  

 

Macintyre was arrested to appear in court on what is called a section 810 application. Essentially the police believed he was about to commit a serious offence and section 810 allows the court to place significant restrictions and conditions on an individual to, hopefully, prevent the offence from being committed. In police cells, Macintyre allegedly threatened a Mountie. He also allegedly threatened two children of another officer.  

 

Both threats make up two of the additional charges currently facing Macintyre.  

 

When he appeared the next day in Sechelt court, he went, well, crazy, for lack of a better description. With his legs shackled and handcuffed, he made a break for it after threatening everyone in sight. He tried to take a flier through a window on the second floor. He broke the glass in diving through, but he didn't count on the security bars.  

 

It took five police officers and a couple of sheriffs to corral him and cart him back to cells. At this point the judge prudently decided a change of venue was in order. He sent the case to Vancouver which has secure facilities for this type of prisoner.  

 

In Vancouver he was seen by a psychiatrist who later stated Macintyre "presented a significant risk" of acting out his sadistic fantasies unless he received treatment involving medications.  

 

So concerned were the people of Langdale that they sent a contingent of "court watch" people to every scheduled hearing date to ensure the matter was dealt with appropriately.

 

At one such hearing in May, Sechelt school district superintendent Clifford Smith was standing in a queue in the courthouse coffee shop during the mid-morning adjournment when he overheard a prosecutor, Garth Gibson, complaining about the waste of money and time it was for all the people from Langdale coming over to watch the proceedings.  

 

Smith then introduced himself to Gibson and was given both barrels. The conversation moved to a table and was joined by a Mountie who set Gibson straight on the rights and motivations of the community. For the record, Gibson later apologized.  

 

When the group returned to court they sat around and watched the judge do a crossword with his clerk. As the clock approached noon, the judge told the group from Langdale that nothing further would occur until the afternoon. The group departed for lunch. Except for one who remained behind.  

 

The case was then called forward and further matters were heard and another date set. If not for the man who remained behind, the case would have proceeded without the watchful eyes of the people who have children in the area in which Macintyre lives.  

 

Last Friday the group from Langdale was told the matter was to be dealt with by way of a guilty plea. When they turned up in court it appeared the deal had nothing to do with the alleged threats to the police officer's kids, something they were adamant about.  

 

Prosecutor Chris Johnson dug his heels in and the deal was scuttled, much to the anger of defence counsel Brian Coleman, who then questioned who was running the case, the Crown or the citizen's group. Coleman, a highly respected member of the defence bar, then, in a move quite out of character, went into the corridor and got into a heated discussion with the group from Langdale.  

 

Certainly it would be in the defence's benefit to have the proceedings go ahead without the watchful and critical eyes of the concerned citizens of Langdale. But clearly they don't trust the system to look after their interests. And that, dear reader, is a tragic reflection of what is wrong with our justice system.  

 

With the plea bargain in the trash, the case resumes on Aug. 10. There will be a delegation present from Langdale. The courts, the Crown and the defence may not like this type of scrutiny, but it is the town's right and duty to do what it can to protect its kids.  

 

Frankly it's too bad more people didn't care as much.

 

  -30-

 

 

 

 

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