Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive July 23, 2015)

A Glaring Omission 


By Bob Cooper

Colin Hill

On the evening of July 12, 2015 Surrey realtor Colin Hill, 42 was in the place where a person is entitled to feel safest, his home, where he lived with his wife and two children.  By all accounts Colin Hill was the type of person you’d want for a friend, neighbor, or co-worker.  He was devoted to his family and worked hard to provide for them in a very competitive industry. 

Colin Hill had the rest of his promising life ahead of him but, as you see so often in police work, things change in the blink of an eye.  Some sociopath who thought the world owed him a living showed up on his doorstep with a gun but even in his last moments Colin Hill behaved as you’d expect and put his family first by shouting a warning to them as he blocked the intruder’s entrance.  Sadly, it brought to mind a slogan I saw the other day that read ‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away’.   

Colin Hill became Surrey’s latest murder victim as well as that rare phenomenon known in the lexicon of Homicide detectives as a ‘genuine victim’.  That is, an honorable, decent person who worked for a living.  He didn’t sell drugs, consort with criminals, and there was absolutely nothing about his lifestyle that would have contributed to his being murdered in any way.  His killer selected him completely at random.  Unlike many murder victims, Colin Hill’s passing is a real loss to society (Homeowner killed in home invasion). 

Within hours the RCMP arrested a suspect who they caught in the middle of committing the same crime in the neighboring city of Burnaby and kudos to the Mounties for a quick capture.  A 22 year old man with a lengthy criminal record who should probably have been in jail is now charged with Second Degree Murder and in the circumstances of this case that’s what the law provides for but it’s not right. 

To give you the short version, in Canada murder is classified as First Degree, Second Degree, or Manslaughter which usually involves a lesser degree of intent or an element of provocation.  Murder is automatically classified as First Degree where it is planned and deliberate, the victim is a Peace Officer, or it occurs during the commission of several specified offences like aircraft hijacking (motorists are on their own), sexual assault, kidnapping, and hostage taking.  Amazingly, the list of specified offences for First Degree murder don’t include Robbery or Breaking and Entering a Dwelling House.  It always struck me as a glaring omission and no one has ever been able to tell me why.

I consider the governing Conservatives the best of a bad lot.  They brand themselves as the ‘law & order’ party but most of their Criminal Code amendments have been nothing more than flim-flam, sleight of hand.   If a bar served me a drink as watered down as their legislation I’d never go back there and I most certainly wouldn’t pay for it. 

For example, a few years ago to great fanfare they added a section making gang-related and contract killings automatically First Degree Murder which would be great if the need existed but both were already pretty much covered by the “planned and deliberate” section.

Where the need does exist is to remedy this ‘glaring omission’, the benefit of which will accrue to Colin Hill’s killer who will be out of prison much sooner than he should because he will only be facing a charge of Second Degree Murder which carries a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 10 years (as opposed to First Degree where the minimum is 25 years).  And believe me, after that all bets are off.  Legal commentators are quick to point out that the judge can always increase the parole eligibility period which is true and will more than likely happen in this case but that’s not the point.

I know the legal establishment has a great aversion to mandatory minimum sentences but the existing list of offences has been in the Code for years.  Like Sexual Assault, Kidnapping, or Hostage Taking, Robbery is a crime of violence and going back to English Common Law the doctrine that a man’s home is his castle has been held sacrosanct.  The Criminal Code already provides a life sentence for both Robbery and B&E of a Dwelling House which shows the seriousness with which the Parliament of the day viewed those crimes and anyone who kills someone while committing either deserves the full ride.


Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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Contributing 2015