Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of Sept.  5, 2005)

You're Grounded

  By John Martin

I was probably ten or eleven years old when the news broke.  John O’Sullivan, a kid one year younger than me who lived a couple doors down had been caught with a package of cigarettes by his mother.  None of the neighborhood kids knew it, but I guess Mrs. Sullivan didn’t play around when it came to the discipline department.  She grounded John.  Grounded him for the entire school year.

He could walk to school of course.  He still attended scouts once a week.   But that was it.  He couldn’t come to the store with us.  Couldn’t come to the field to play.  Couldn’t even cross the street to Ray’s driveway where we played ball hockey.  She grounded him good.  He was allowed to have friends over but his yard and room weren’t particularly interesting so we didn’t see much of John after school for eight months or so.

I hadn’t thought about this childhood incident for decades but something happened the other day that brought the whole thing back to me. 

Teresa Senner, 43, was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Vanderhoof school principal, Norman Wicks.  She was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served at home.

House arrest for stabbing her lover to death.  Stabbing him in the groin.  Ouch.

Apparently things got ugly when Wicks announced he was not going to leave his wife after all.  Oh yes, and he was involved with a couple other bimbos as well.  So she killed him.

Originally she was charged with second degree murder, an offence that carries an automatic life sentence and no parole for a minimum of ten years.  But the charge was lowered to manslaughter.  And now she’s grounded. 

With good behavior she will probably be staying at home for a few months longer than John O’Sullivan did some thirty-five years ago.

She’ll be allowed to leave the house for medical appointments and work.  Just like John could still go to school and scouts.

Oh yes, the judge also prohibited Mrs. Senner from using e-mail and the internet during her grounding.   Ouch.

Something is wrong here.

The taking of a life is no longer an outrage.  It is no longer the single, most vile criminal act a person can engage in. In fact, house arrest is becoming quite routine for those convicted of manslaughter.

The crime of homicide is being dealt with much the same as shoplifting, driving while prohibited or cutting down a neighbor’s tree without permission.

Or being caught with cigarettes when you’re ten years old. 

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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