(This column was published in the North Shore News on Jan. 30, 2002)


Bureaucrats don't care about 'just a witness'

By Leo Knight

AN editor I used to toil for observed, and quite rightly I might add, that I had to take the bile out of some of the opinion pieces I wrote. He recognized the passion I came at the subject with, but suggested that perhaps I needed to be somewhat less passionate.


And fair enough.


But I spent an hour talking with a true victim on Saturday. Not only a victim of crime, but a victim of the system that has done every bit as much damage to her as the perpetrator of the crime itself. And I'm pissed.


I'm so pissed I cannot guarantee I can keep the bile out of this column.


The victim is someone I hadn't heard from for several years since I was involved in the original investigation. I can't tell you her name out of fear for her safety. Since this episode began, she has had to leave two jobs and move house twice. To prevent a third move, I will keep this fairly generic.


There is a lunatic who is enraptured with her. He's not an ex-boyfriend or anything of the sort. He's just some goof who worked for the same company as she did. He asked her out and she politely declined. She did nothing more than that. Keep this in mind as you read on.


The polite refusal began a nightmare for the young lady. The unwanted attention started with some bizarre poetry and messages on her voice mail and home answering machine. It escalated to acid on her vehicle and threats to her life. In between he brought real terror to her life.


In the interim she was having difficulty getting the police interested. The problem was jurisdiction. She worked in Vancouver and lived in an area serviced by the RCMP.


The goof in this case is an American by birth. He has a record for the same sort of stuff in his home state. He ran from charges there and fled to Canada where he claimed refugee status. And this country actually allowed him to do that instead of laughing in his face and pointing him back in a southerly direction. It was during the time his refugee claim was being handled by the pointy-headed bureaucrats that he began his affectation in this case.


Once the law enforcement machine got rolling, it wasn't long before the suspect was in jail and charged. But, that's where the system started to victimize the victim.


On the first morning of the trial, the victim still had not been interviewed by Crown Counsel. She had no experience in court and at the morning recess, she approached the prosecutor and asked what was happening to her case.


The Crown, undoubtedly puffed up with the level of arrogance only a lawyer can muster, sneered at the victim, "It's my case. You are just a witness."


Miss "Just a Witness" was to find out this was only the beginning of an ordeal at the hands of an uncaring system populated by bureaucrats whose only raison d'etre seems to be covering their own incompetent butts. The ordeal is far from over.


Once convicted, the stalker appealed and the conviction upheld. All on legal aid, I might add. But, even in jail, the stalker was able to reach out and once again intrude in the life of his victim.


After serving almost three years of his sentence, employees of the B.C. Attorney General did up the paperwork supposedly to extradite the stalker back to the U.S.A. to face the music he had run from.


But they did it wrong. The Americans could not legally take custody of the stalker and the Canadian authorities didn't know what else to do, so they simply let him go. Two weeks later someone from the AG called up Miss "Just a Witness" and instructed her to leave her home and flee for her life.


That was 10 months ago. An RCMP member involved in the case suggested she should enter the Witness Protection Program, but he had no idea how this might occur. So he told her to contact the AG using the phone number in the Blue Pages.


Meanwhile, on her behalf, a Victim Services volunteer began an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), a division of the WCB.


But Criminal Injuries said because the case began at a work site it was WCB responsibility. Not so, said WCB and pushed it back. Criminal Injuries then said because she wasn't physically injured she wasn't really a victim. And on and on the bureaucrats push this thing around. Meanwhile Miss "Just a Witness" has lost her $42,000-a-year job because she had to spend so much time going to court and police and justice meetings. Now she's in some danger of losing her house.


She can't afford a lawyer to represent her with WCB. Nor can she afford the counselling needed to undo all the damage done to her emotional self.


Last year she spoke to an international conference for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, a group of mostly police officers from around the world. They understood. When she finished she received a standing ovation.


Back at home, she received a letter and some advice telling her to get over it. In the meantime, no one, Canadian or American, seems to know where her tormentor is despite Canada-wide warrants in this country and extraditable felony warrants outstanding in the U.S.A.


She lives in emotional hell, he is free as a bird and the WCB and the CICB are still passing the buck. Her stalker had no end of rights from refugee to convict. The victim apparently has none. She is, after all, "just a witness."






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