Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Mar. 19, 2008)

Whistling Past the Graveyard

By Bob Cooper



Lawyer Rishi Gillís defence of his client, Enrique Quintana, in his letter to The Province certainly earns him an ĎAí for effort in my book.  At the same time it conjures up an image of a beachgoer in Thailand with a depth perception problem who looks at the approaching tsunami and thinks itís just the surf coming up.

Much of what Mr. Gill says in his letter is probably true.  The sentence handed down to the hard-done-by Quintana may in fact be outside the range handed out for similar offences, Iíll give him that.  However, Mr. Gill seems oblivious to the fact that he has left the sterile, often surreal atmosphere of the British Columbia Courts and has now walked into the court of public opinion, in other words, the real world.  He totally misses the point that this is precisely what people are angry about.  Most people feel that the range of sentences for this type of offence should be much higher, period.  In this particular case they also feel that his client should go quietly off to start serving his time and thank his lucky stars that the system has become as feeble as it has and he didnít get life.

The only one in this tragedy who got it right was Judge Ken Ball and Iím not surprised.  I know Judge Ball quite well from his days as a defence lawyer.  Iíve always enjoyed his company and have a tremendous amount of respect for him both personally and on a professional basis.  One of his greatest attributes is his common sense and it was that quality that carried the day in this case and provided at least a measure of justice for Michael Levy and his family.  Even if one were to accept Mr. Gillís arguments about sentencing ranges, every now and then a case comes along that stands out from the rest and virtually demands on its own merits that an exception be made.

Mr. Gillís submissions may resonate well in court but they fall far short of the mark in the real world.  In reading his letter I was struck by the fact that he opened it by saying that public comment was appreciated and closed it by essentially telling everyone to shut up and avoid ďpersonal criticismĒ of his client or the justice system.  Amazing.  His client stands convicted of a savage crime that crippled a young man for life, took away his future and all his aspirations, and shocked the public conscience.  God forbid any one should criticize him.

I suspect that given the chance to re-write the letter, Mr. Gill might reconsider that particular line.  Though Iím sure it was unintentional, his message was clear and frankly, so was the arrogance.  It really illustrates the disconnect between some members of the bar and the general public.

As Mr. Gill says, the issue will be decided in the Court of Appeal.  Given a lot of their past rulings Iíd advise the Levy family to brace themselves.  I appreciate that Mr. Gill is just doing his professional duty by advocating vigorously for his client and I respect him for it.  That said, should he be successful, he should not be surprised when, despite his admonition, the justice system comes in for a little criticism.  This is the real world and people are more than a little fed-up.  And, theyíre no longer shy about saying so.

PS Ė Should the endorsement of an old right-wing cop prove the kiss of death for Judge Ball he can take comfort in the knowledge that my words were sincere and, like the road to hell, paved with good intentions.  

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