Prime Time Crime


(Prime Time Crime Aug. 28, 2008)


A game of risk


   By Sandra Martins-Toner

If anyone would like examples of the dysfunction of our current Justice system, we need to look no further than two recent cases from BC's Lower Mainland.

In a weak and pathetic display from Crown counsel and the judiciary, a punk convicted of attacking a 97-year-old woman during a home invasion, viciously assaulting her and rendering her no longer capable of a previously independent life, appealed his 5 year sentence.

The convicted claimed that the trial Judge had erred in imposing such a strict sentence.  T.J.F. (name protected by the YCJA as he was a youth at the time of his attack) was out on bail on previous charges including possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking, possession of weapons including a loaded handgun and sawed off shotgun. He was also violating his curfew at the time of the attack, and had been sentenced to 8 months open custody and 4 months supervision for the previous crimes.

Although the Court dismissed the appeal, Justice David Frankel, speaking for the Appellate Court, commented that the Crown should have asked for a longer sentence in the first place. Had the learned Judge truly felt that public safety and the deterrence and denunciation of this heinous act been a real priority, why then did he not impose a heavier sentence himself? Last time I checked, Appellate Courts did have this authority, so why the reluctance to set an example? The really sad part is that they’re entitled to do so, and they did not.

Another prime example this week has been the Wilfred Charles Baptiste case. Prosecutors wanted to see this man declared a dangerous offender due to a propensity for brutal violence and a demonstrated record of repeat offences. Convicted in 2005 of beating a man so severely it left him with a permanent mental disability, and again of savagely beating and robbing another person in 2006, Baptiste’s long list of violent crimes that go back to his adolescent years (57 charges) another 28 as an adult, and 38 institutional charges he received while in Federal custody for other crimes. If ever there was a poster boy for the Dangerous offender label, Wilfred Baptiste is it.

Yet a soft hearted BC Supreme Court Judge, Justice Austin Cullen, refused to designate him so. Ruling against a Crown application to have Baptiste imprisoned indefinitely, Justice Cullen remarked, "I conclude that, although Mr. Baptiste presently represents a high risk to re-offend," Justice Cullen explained, "the nature and severity of his risk eventually can be sufficiently contained within the community to justify a long-term offender designation, rather than a dangerous offender designation." Excuse me? I’m fairly certain that Baptiste’s victims don’t feel that his risk can be “contained within the community”.

What is Cullen saying in this ruling?  Essentially this- Batiste will serve 50% of a nine year sentence and be back on the street (supervised, of course!) in 54 months. Cullen refused to pull the trigger, and the Dangerous offender legislation once again fails in its purpose of protecting society for the ridiculous reason that the Judiciary fails to exercise its authority and designate offenders as they are required.

It’s time for law abiding citizens to act! Have we not stood by long enough to see that our Judiciary has fallen asleep behind the bench? How many violent prior convictions should these violent offenders collect like merit badges from the Scouts before we deem them as dangerous offenders?

The Federal Minister of Justice should take another hard look at this legislation, as it appears that too much discretion is allowing Judges to sidestep their responsibility, something that should be a major concern of every Canadian citizen.

Sandra Martins-Toner is the founder and executive Director of F.A.C.T. and can be contacted at



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