Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’
What does the “supervised” in supervised probation mean in Manitoba, exactly?
It’s a question churning around and around in my head today as I dug into the wealth of justice system-related background available on Shayla Woodford, a 21-year-old Manitoba woman accused by police of murdering her one-time live-in lover Samantha Cherish Anderson.
Anderson died Dec. 21, weeks after police say she was attacked in a Boyd Avenue home on Dec. 2 — the day before her 24th birthday.
Woodford was accused (and she’s presumed innocent) right from the start, arrested just after the incident on aggravated assault and probation breach charges.
She was officially rearrested for second-degree murder earlier this week.
At the time of Anderson’s death, Woodford was out on bail (for the 7th time since late 2009) and bound by two supervised probation orders meant to either keep her in check, help rehabilitate her or, more likely, both of those things.
While the latest two cases she faces have yet to be proven, Woodford’s habit of getting collared for crimes raises questions about the level of supervision to be expected when a sentenced person is placed on supervised probation by the courts.
An unusual feature is how Woodford’s involvement with the justice system only dates back three years, shortly after she turned 18 and began her relationship with Anderson.
Since then, however, she’s been arrested and released multiple times for a variety of different offences, some of them domestic-related and others not.
To try and make sense of it, I crafted a timeline out of the available information. After taking a number of hours to consider it and its implications, I’ve decided to present it here for the record:
November 2008: Woodford and Anderson begin their relationship.
Sept 12, 2009: The couple are now living together on Young Street. Woodford, drunk on 24 Budweiser beer, assaults Anderson — even turning up the stereo to mask the sounds of the attack — and is arrested at the scene by police. She’s released on conditions she have no contact with Anderson as the case makes its way through the courts.
October 2009: The couple are back living together despite the no-contact conditions.
January 25-Feb 1, 2010: Sometime in this period, Woodford assaults Anderson again after getting a call from her lawyer, who reads to her Anderson’s statement from the prior incident.
Feb 12, 2010: Woodford asks Anderson “who she’s trying to look good for.” The incident prompts Anderson to flee their home and she tells police she’s forced to hide in a restaurant for 30 minutes to an hour to evade her lover. She spends the rest of the weekend at a friend’s home.
Feb 14, 2010: Woodford spots Anderson outside, pulls up in a car and drags her into it. Woodford pushes her into her home, pulling off Anderson’s shoes and tossing them in the snow, telling her “She’s never going anywhere again.” She then bites her on the arm.
Feb 16, 2010: Anderson discloses recent events to police and they arrest Woodford.
March 29, 2010: Woodford is released on bail to live with family, ordered to have no contact with Anderson and stay a minimum of two blocks away from her at all times.
Nov. 14, 2010: Anderson’s mother has a phone conversation with her daughter, hears Woodford in the background and calls police out of concern. Police attend and take her into custody.
Dec. 22, 2010: Woodford, granted bail weeks earlier, can’t raise a required surety, so conditions are changed on this day to remove that condition. She’s freed, ordered to abide by a nightly curfew and again, have no contact with Anderson.
March 4, 2011: Cops investigating an unrelated compliant are sent on a goose chase trying to find Woodford. They’re told she left town for her home community of Fairford First Nation for the weekend.
March 8, 2011: Woodford stops signing in at bail supervision.
June 7, 2011: Winnipeg cops finally catch up to her after they nearly hit her with a cruiser car when she walks out in front of it near Logan Avenue and Tecumseh Street. The warrant for her arrest comes to light.
Aug. 5, 2011: Woodford, held in custody now, pleads guilty to three counts of assault and a number of breaches. Judge Tim Preston cautions her about her conduct toward Anderson and apportions some of her dead time to the various charges she pleaded to. She’s released that same day on a two year long supervised probation order, with conditions including avoiding Anderson for the entire term, take domestic violence counselling and a weapons ban. These marked her first-ever convictions. “That relationship was not healthy, it’s over,” Preston tells her. “I don’t want you having anything to do with her.”
Dec. 10, 2011: A heavily intoxicated Woodford steals a Duffy’s Taxi driver’s cab, only to be arrested behind the wheel not long after. Belligerent, it takes hours for police to get a breath reading off of her. She blows .210, nearly three times the legal limit.
Dec. 12, 2011: She’s released on bail.
Feb 16, 2012: Woodford is again back in court for reasons that weren’t made clear. But they obviously had something to do with Anderson, because her bail conditions are set to include having no contact with her. She is also barred from being in the City of Winnipeg except for probation and court-related meetings or appointments.
April 6, 2012: Anderson and Woodford are riding a city bus together when one of them decides to snatch an iPhone from a passenger’s hands. They flee, but the passenger gives chase. The two women play a game of keep away with the phone until the victim restrains Woodford and Anderson jets off with the phone. Police ultimately arrest both. The charge against Anderson is stayed at a later date. Woodford is charged with the theft and a no-contact breach.
July 6, 2012: Woodford’s second sentencing: Only through her probing the lawyers does Judge Heather Pullan come to discover out a small amount of the troubled past shared by Woodford and Anderson. “What about Ms. Anderson?,” Pullan asks. “(Woodford’s) victimized her before and is now getting in trouble with her,” she says. She’s told it was Anderson who contacted Woodford this time around and that the relationship is “complex.”
Neither the Crown nor defence requests any additional probation as part of this sentence.
Pullan rebuffs that and imposes another two-year term, despite the fact she appears to be holding her nose somewhat due to Woodford’s conduct on the prior order: “This whole line of behaviour tells me you don’t care what the court says, you’re going to do what you’re going to do and victimize people,” she tells Woodford. “You have to understand, Ms. Woodford, you’re running out of chances.”
Pullan did wonder aloud why it was the prior probation term seemed to be failing to help Woodford get straight, but appeared to push the onus right back on her.
“You’re treating this whole thing as a joke. It’s really hard to protect the public from you,” Pullan tells her.
Sept. 12, 2012: Woodford is accused of several new charges, including assault, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and breach of probation. The incident obviously involves Portage Place Mall, as:
Sept 17, 2012: Woodford is released on bail with conditions she live at an address in Gypsumville and not move without permission and to stay away from Portage Place mall.
October 29, 2012: A Probation officer files a report in support of charging Woodford with new breaches as she can’t be located in Fairford, and a relative says she asked for her stuff to be sent down to Winnipeg. The relative refused to give the probation officer the contact number. The officer warns in the letter that Woodford was assessed at “high risk for general criminal conduct” and she has a “propensity to become violent.” A relative told the officer: “She is supposed to be staying with me and I have tried to help her and now I don’t know what to do.”
Dec. 2, 2012: Anderson is attacked with a kitchen knife inside a Boyd Avenue home and police charge Woodford. They say the two were living at the home. A 17-year-old girl is also injured in the attack.
Dec. 21, 2012: Anderson dies of her injuries.
Dec. 24, 2012: Police announce they have charged Woodford with second-degree murder and she remains in custody.
The provincial government, Justice Minister Andrew Swan and those sitting on the provincial domestic violence Death Review Committee must turn their minds to investigating what happened to Sandi-Lynn Malcolm.
Nothing short of a full and frank examination into how a young aboriginal girl can be serially abused by her ex-partner on a small reserve — only to end up brutally killed by his hands, will suffice.
It’s my view the public should be protesting — as Malcolm’s family and friends have done — to bring attention to her case in hopes of rooting out others like it before it’s too late.
What happened to this girl should not have happened and we should be sickened by it.
After sitting with the facts of Malcolm’s killing for only a short time now, I believe she was failed on a fundamental level, for a number of reasons:
She lived in an isolated environment that had few resources or opportunities for intervention.
Warning signs — including those expressed through her own words to police — that something awful was going to happen weren’t heeded to the degree they should have.
And, (I suppose it goes without saying) Malcolm suffered a fatal consequence in her continued association with a violent human being who urged her to “trust him.”
He repaid her undeserved trust with unspeakable violence.
She was only 17 years old, though. A kid. We can’t lose sight of this.
Answers must be sought.
“There. I done what had to be done.” — Ronald Racette Jr.
On the night of Jan. 30, 2010 RCMP who police the Ebb and Flow community got a call from Malcolm’s mother, saying her teen daughter was covered with cuts and had black eyes.
Sandi-Lynn gives an official statement, in which she alleges her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Racette Jr., 19, had brutally assaulted her at his father’s home. He punched her, hit her with a lamp, whipped her with the lamp’s cord and then tried to choke her with it.
A check of Racette’s record on CPIC would have alerted police to the fact of his prior domestic-abuse history.
“I should just kill you,” she reported Racette Jr. as telling her. There were no other witnesses, she told police, who photographed her bruises and cuts.
Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 8, Sandi-Lynn picks up the phone wanting to report the violence Racette Jr. put her through a day prior .
She gives another statement: Sandi-Lynn, covered in bruises, tells RCMP that her vow to stay away from Racette Jr. collapsed when he phoned her, pitifully saying he hadn’t eaten in two days.
“She said she had a soft heart and felt sorry for him,” court was told. “He told her to trust him … she did.”
Sandi-Lynn brings Racette Jr. something to eat. They were “getting along fine,” she said.
But when she said she had to go to work on her resume — she hoped to get a job as a cashier in a store — he grew angry.
While out for a walk, Sandi-Lynn was made to run through deep snow, was knocked down and kicked and pummelled while being accused of being unfaithful while he was in jail.
“She told him she didn’t want to die like that.”
Sandi-Lynn’s next words to police were alarmingly prophetic:
“Everybody had told her not to take him back because the next time, he’ll kill you, but she didn’t listen,” court heard of her police statement.
A raging Racette Jr. continually asked her if “she wanted to die.”
“I should just kill you and kill myself,” he said. They were near a creek in the community. He threatened to just throw her in there, “where no-one would find her.”
Sandi-Lynn’s survival skills kicked in. She offset his volatility by “pretending to love him” — putting on a “big front” in hopes of getting away from him alive.
He kept beating her, and made her stay outside, shoeless, in the freezing cold. “She said she felt like she was being kept hostage or something,” RCMP heard.
Racette Jr. wasn’t drinking, Sandi-Lynn said.
After giving her statement, RCMP set out to look for him. At the second community home they came to, Racette Jr. is seen fleeing into some bushes.
Cops chased him on foot but couldn’t catch up. A warrant issues but he’s not caught.
He’d re-emerge just over two weeks later for his last night of freedom.
A recounting of Sandi-Lynn’s last hours were presented to the court through witness testimony from people who were around Sandi-Lynn in her last hours and minutes.
On the evening of Feb. 26, Sandi-Lynn and a group of girlfriends scored a 30-pack of beer, but didn’t set about drinking heavily. She used the phone at one point, and reported the party was happening at Racette Jr.’s dad’s home.
It’s believed she was talking to Racette Jr. in this call. He turned up not long after.
Before he came to get the girls and their remaining 24 cans of beer, Sandi-Lynn asked her friends to “watch over her and not let him be alone with her.”
He picked them up in a nondescript “black car.”
Instead of driving directly to the party, Racette Jr. took a route past a local cemetery and stopped the vehicle.
“This is where we are all going to end up,” he said.
A ‘trail of knives’
Once at the party, it didn’t take long for Racette Jr. to become irate. Sandi-Lynn refused him a request to go alone with him to another room.
Not long after, Sandi-Lynn and another friend were horsing around, just being girls. “She’s my girl now,” the friend joked to Racette Jr.
Racette Jr. responds by punching the friend in the face four times, an assault only stopped after others intervened to pull him off.
He goes outside for a few moments. Returns. Another request of Sandi-Lynn is made for the two to be alone. Another refusal from her.
This. The last straw. He tosses an ashtray in her direction and begins grabbing knives.
“A number of people went and hid in Ronald Sr.’s bedroom because they feared something terrible was going to happen,” Justice Midwinter was told.
They had no idea how awful it was going to get. Sandi-Lynn and another woman who had come to collect her young son from the home fled to a bathroom.
Another witness reported seeing a “trail of knives” leading to the bathroom door.
‘The cops are coming’
I won’t recount what happens next, other than to say a jealous and enraged Racette Jr. committed acts of such brutal and extreme violence on Sandi-Lynn that hearing the extent of her injuries was truly jarring.
47 stab wounds don’t even amount to half of the total number of injuries a pathologist totalled up. Dr. Charles Littman noted 105 “incidents of trauma” on her.
One of Sandi-Lynn’s friends tried to stop the attack by stabbing Racette Jr. in the back as he murdered the teen. It only served to anger him more.
“He looks at her with an evil look and went charging after her.”
He made his way to his father’s bedroom — they unlocked the door to let him in — where people cowered in fear. Children had to be out out the window for fear of their safety.
“Why did you do that? You killed that girl,” his dad told him. “You better get out of here, the cops are coming.”
Racette Jr. didn’t reply. He went back to the bathroom where Sandi-Lynn was and turned on the shower.
A witness says he left the house shortly after, leaving these haunting words in the gloom:
“There. I done what had to be done.”
Efforts to revive Sandi-Lynn didn’t work. It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
Police caught up with Racette Jr. at his aunt’s home, where he was wrapped in a blanket, being comforted by a relative.
’Our little reserve is not a war zone’
There was little defence lawyer Todd Bourcier could say in defence of what Racette Jr. did — acts the now 21-year-old pleaded guilty to doing.
But Bourcier raised some credible points about the lack of intervention and other resources in the community for domestic abusers and abuse victims alike.
The nearest women’s shelter from Ebb and Flow (on-reserve population of 1,200 or so) is in Dauphin, a distance of 50 kilometres away.
Options for counselling for men is limited, even to address what he termed the “surface concerns” for offenders with histories of abusing their partners.
And certainly nothing to address Racette Jr.’s specific needs as an angry, jealous, ill-educated, booze-and-drug abusing violent offender of a horrible background, now convicted murderer.
There’s one band constable on reserve, and the nearest RCMP detachment is in St. Rose du Lac, about 35 or 40 kilometres away, according to an online description of the band’s operations.
Despite the small number of people living in the community, between December, January and February, cops responded to 465 service calls, 78 of them regarding violence, Bourcier said.
It goes without saying Sandi-Lynn’s family and friends have been wrecked by not just her death, but also how she died. She was just weeks away from her 18th birthday.
I was there at the Manitoba Legislature a few days after Racette Jr. was charged with her murder when Sandi-Lynn’s relatives and friends travelled the 300 k.m. into the city to hold a candlelit vigil and peaceful protest to condemn domestic violence.
“Our little reserve is not a war zone. Things like this should not happen,” her dad, Kingsley Malcolm, told me at the time.
They did the same thing in 2011, this time, her cousin calling for more attention to be paid to what happened:
“At the time of Sandi’s death the Olympics were closing, so there was not much coverage about her. We needed to bring it to the public’s attention,” she said. “I felt I needed to do this so we could honour her and bring people together to support one another. (from missingmanitobawomen.blogspot.ca published Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011)
Racette Jr.’s sentencing judge, Justice Brian Midwinter, was clearly aggrieved at the underlying circumstances informing Sandi-Lynn’s death, telling the gallery:
There were no resources in the community for Mr. Racette to access … and I have to deal with a vicious attack unprovoked by anything the victim did.
Would it be too much of a stretch to believe that the simply sad domestic-violence resource situation in Ebb and Flow is markedly different from countless other isolated Manitoba communities out there?
Today, using the only tiny power I have — this forum — I’m calling on the Manitoba government to task its domestic violence Death Review Committee to investigate Sandi-Lynn’s murder, the circumstances that led up to it and issue a public report on its findings.
Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (Free Press, update article in 2011)
You gotta admire Provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.
At the same time, you have to pity the fact he can’t simply walk into the CBC or the offices of any other media outlet in Winnipeg and put his opinions on the record for all to hear.
It’s the job of the media to be there to hear what judges like Sandhu have to say. And in this case, only the Winnipeg Sun was on September 30, 2011 — a few days prior to the election — but his words apparently went largely un-noticed by the electorate.
Sandhu was charged on that day with sentencing Daniel Smith, 26, for cracking a broomstick over the head of his wife while she breastfed their child. Then he stabbed her a few times with it.
They were fighting over beer, and the fact money was used to buy the baby essentials at Wal-Mart instead of more booze. The overconsumption of liquor and resulting problems has been a frequent issue in Smith’s life, Sandhu heard.
Without question, one of the most read and commented on posts on this blog in the last year was a recent one about Manitoba’s booze problem and its impact on our soaring violent crime rate.
And how it should be a key focus of any political party seeking reelection if they’re truly serious about ‘getting tough on crime.’
While many comments were positive and agreed to varying extents with my position, others — sent by email, largely, attacked me for taking a perceived prudish and anti-personal-responsibility stance on the issue of alcoholism and booze consumption in our province.
It’s like the Air Canada story that’s been rocking the airwaves this week. The truth hurts.
Sandhu, for whatever reason — frustration, anger, boredom — whatever, used Smith’s case to rail about the provincial booze-influenced-crime issue for an extended period of time.
Here it is, mostly verbatim, for the public record, emphasis mine.
‘Did you hear what you did?’ — it’s rhetorical.
Your behaviour was animalistic. That’s not the way even semi-decent human beings behave.
… It appears to me is what she did is she was asked to get beer and she changed — didn’t want to.
She went and got baby stuff instead because of some reason; she felt the baby needed some stuff.
And here you were, you and your wife and this cousin (Note: she’s 12) — I don’t know how much she was drinking, you were insistent, as was your wife,
‘No, we want to drink.’
That’s much more important to you than anything else.
‘We want to drink’ and if you don’t drink, she comes back without beer, without alcohol and it’s — you get so upset with this that you hit her over the head with a broomstick — and that wasn’t good enough for you. While she’s holding the four-(month)-old, as I’ve been told, that wasn’t good enough for you and you start stabbing her with it.
All for what? For alcohol? Because you wanted more alcohol?
I don’t understand. I understand the power of alcohol — and that people do what appear to be very evil things because they were under the influence of what can be a very evil substance.
And I’ve been told that the combination in terms of costs to society of alcohol is many, many times greater by factors of 10 and 20 and 30 than any — all of the other drugs combined.
And that’s what we see here day to day, the effects of alcohol. And we hear about people doing these evil things and they say: ‘Well, I’m under the influence of alcohol.’
And I understand that that’s not an excuse, it’s not an excuse, but it shows me — and it’s shown to me day after day, and year after year, the incredible evil of alcohol on certain people. In certain situations.
And the evil is compounded by the fact that even when people appear here, time after time, having done what appear to be evil things, they can’t stop.
They continue to drink — and they continue to do evil things.
And then we look at all that and go, ‘well, is it the person that’s evil?’ The act was certainly evil. ‘Is the person evil? Is alcohol evil?’
You can’t ignore the fact that alcohol’s involved in all of these things. And here’s an almost perfect example of a person who can’t get the alcohol, who can’t get the thing that they crave and they do these animalistic things.
All for the power of alcohol — because of the power of alcohol. Sold at the corner store.
Friendly neighbourhood grocery store soon.
And we wonder ‘how come there’s so much crime, how come there’s so much apparent evil in the world?’
And the only thing I hear about the alcohol is, ‘Oh, people are using it as an excuse,’ ‘Oh, why should they get less time because they’re drinking alcohol?’
That’s not the point.
The whole point being missed is what alcohol does to people, how it changes their behaviour, how they don’t even remember what they did.
Somebody who is on cocaine or marijuana or on speed, or on meth — you don’t see them doing these things. Maybe once in a while, something happens, an overdose …
But what happens day after day, month after month, year after year, case after case — is alcohol.
And people try to do things about it and get treatment — they try to go through rehab time and time again. They come back to court, thy lose their freedom. They lose their family, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives — they know other people have lost their lives and they still drink. Absolutely no control.
The control is completely from the substance — and that has to be recognized.
I‘m getting tired of this, in that the … the effect of alcohol people, and the complete lack of treatment facilities in this province to deal with it and people burying their heads in the sand about what the reality is.
Has to end. Look what it’s doing to our society. And the courts are supposed to deal with it? How can we deal with it?
The only power that I have is to take away your freedom. That’s my ultimate power. That’s it. That’s all I have. When you leave the courtroom here today, you’re not to be punished any further — your punishment is your loss of freedom and that’s it.
When you go to jail, you’re not required to do anything … you’re not required to go to rehab, you’re not required to deal with the alcohol.
You don’t want to, you don’t have to. That because the only power the court has — your loss of freedom. There is nothing other than the lower penalties that we have, the fines and so on. But the ultimate penalty is simply your loss of freedom.
And it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with all the time on your hand — because you’ve had lots of time on your hands and you’ve done nothing about your alcohol — I haven’t heard anything from your lawyer that you’ve even tried. Maybe you’re one of these people that alcohol is such a strong attraction that you don’t care. You don’t even care for rehab. There’s even a song about that: ‘You don’t even care for rehab,’ because you want the alcohol.
For you, the shining light on the hill is alcohol and you stab people and you hit them over the head with a broomstick and you run up a criminal record that’s three pages long — all alcohol related.
And you’re one of those people that’s only going to quit when you’re face down in the ground.
Is that what you want to be? Is that your life? Four-month-old baby — you’re going to lose your baby, you’re going to lose your life, you’re going to lose your freedom, gonna lose your job — if you had one — that didn’t stop you.
And eventually, there’s gonna be a time where you could well be locked up indefinitely.
Because if you have no control over this substance that makes you such an angry person, makes you do such evil acts — even though you yourself may not be evil ‚ then we have to deal with the evil act. We can’t deal with the person anymore — there’s comes a time, and as I said, the courts have very limited power. We can’t cure the problems of society by sitting here and sending people to jail. It’s not our job.
That’s the job of society to deal with it. And society wants to bury their heads in the sand.
And don’t blame the courts for not being able to fix society’s evils.
Sandhu even made the point of jumping Smith’s time for failing to comply with a probation order for verboten drinking by 15 days (from 45 to 60).
“I think even the two months is generous,” he said.
He even rubbed it in a tiny bit by ordering that Smith pay the $300 victim fine surcharge in the case — a penalty usually wiped out when a person has been locked up for months and months because they’ve likely lost everything. Smith was credited with double time for just shy of a year behind bars.
Just a final word, Mr. Smith. Do something about your alcohol. Unless you want to die, do something about it. I know many people who are very fine people when they are not drinking. And they’re completely different people when they are drinking. And if they didn’t drink, I would say that we wouldn’t even see them. Wouldn’t even see them in court — but we see them time after time after time.
And I give this speech to a lot of people — well, part of this speech to a lot of people — I know it doesn’t get through. All I can try to do is tell you that there is help available. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to be back here again. And again and again and again.
… It’s your life. You’ve got another 50 years to go. Is this how you want to spend it?
“1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”
-Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step of the 12-step program
Wanna make Manitoba — home of the violent crime capital of Canada — a safer place to live?
Want to make a meaningful effort to restore public order after this election season?
Then we need to take meaningful, even drastic, steps to get Manitoba’s booze problem under control.
Reductions in violent crime will follow, and I’d imagine pretty quickly at that.
While all signs point to the abuse of booze being the single most common factor in all occurrences of violent crime, Manitoba is moving forward — with plans to get booze into the hands of people in easier and more convenient ways.
Bars and clubs in Winnipeg are packed, night after night, even though the majority of people that I know anyway readily admit they’re only somewhat fun to be at; that the overall experience is kind of sad from a social-interaction perspective.
Why is that?
Casinos in Winnipeg — all government controlled — are also doing brisk business, despite the fact winning it big is a losing proposition for most.
Why is that?
The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission rings up record sales year after year after year according to its annual reports. Sales keep climbing, along with the violent crime rate. (In millions of dollars)
2007 — $521,380
2008 — $554,769
2009 — $583,763
2010 — $610,515
Why is that?
Despite a decline in the number of charges laid last year over 2009, impaired driving in Manitoba remains a massive public safety issue. Each time police run a project to crack down on the crime, drunk drivers are caught. There’s never a time the cops head home after a Checkstop shift scratching their heads and saying, ‘ I guess that’s been taken care of.’
Why is that?
I’m no expert in addictions, and I like a cold beer like pretty much everyone else.
But one thing I can say from experience, is that if a serious violent crime happens in Winnipeg, booze is likely a backdrop to the events leading up to it.
Just look at the incredibly serious cases making recent headlines in Winnipeg’s crime news:
Nikita Eaglestick abducts a baby and inexplicably smashes its face on a sidewalk. She was so drunk she couldn’t remember anything about doing it or what led up to it. At the time, she was on bail and bound by a court order to abstain from drinking.
A drinking party in the northern fringes of the West End prompts family members to arm themselves and spill into the streets. A man is run over and killed when a van is used as a weapon. A teen girl faces a first-degree murder charge and an attempted murder charge to boot.
A man twice hailed as a hero for saving people from drowning admits that his chronic alcoholism was a major factor in contributing to an assault on a city doctor when she didn’t have any money to offer him.
“(Faron) Hall said he looks forward to getting out of jail soon, but added that he is nervous because he doesn’t know if or how he can get counselling to kick his alcohol addiction.”
These are but a few of the most blatant and easy to find examples at my fingertips.
But also consider how youth violent crime is also rising. Do we know precisely what role FASD plays in that? Anecdotally, everyone knows it’s a huge issue, and one that’s expensive and complex to fix. We largely leave that largely to an overtaxed justice system to ferret out and try to stem.
But in this provincial election season, we need to come to grips with what the real problem is and expect those who want to lead us into the future to show some vision on this front. If the provincial government can’t change the criminal law per se, it can change the atmosphere in which the law exists. It does, at the end of the day, have the Liquor Control Act in its back pocket.
Instead, the electorate is promised more police officers as the primary way of boosting public safety or order, the cure-all for our seemingly intractable crime issues.
Let’s think about that.
We know that the number one — by a huge margin — call for service police officers spend their times going to are domestic disturbances. (17,019 dispatched calls in 2009. The next highest was ‘check wellbeing’ (also booze-influenced) at 7,862).
How many of those domestics are booze-related — ie: Jimmy got pissed and beat Janey up again?
Eighty per cent? I’d guess it’s even possibly higher.
If we as a society were to try and get a handle on our booze problem, how much police resource time would be saved for officers to do other things? I’d suggest it would be huge. The need for new cops would be nil.
We also know that bootlegging outside the city onto so-called ‘dry’ reserves is a huge problem.
Kives had a good column on new cops as election pledge today.
Look: I know there’s the argument of personal responsibility here. People have to be held accountable for what they choose to ingest and the public’s fed up with intoxication being used as a defence against culpability for vile criminal acts.
(FASD presents a thorny issue, though, as most would readily admit that unborns can’t make the choice to have that vodka shot or not).
But let’s at least call a spade a spade and take the first step in admitting Manitoba has a drinking problem.
Since the state regulates the sale and consumption of booze, and profits greatly from it, we should demand nothing less. It’s time to have a real discussion about crime in our province and how to meaningfully affect change.
And now — at least up until Oct. 4 is the time we did it.
One month before 2011 is set to begin, The Winnipeg Police Service officially releases its annual report for 2009.
Oddly, they’re also holding a press conference for reporters to discuss, ask questions about and dissect last year’s news.
I’ll save you the trouble. There’s none to be found in it. Well, almost.
Problem is it’s unfair to claim this data as reflective of anything because it’s so old.
Once again, the report notes police spend a lot of their time going to domestic disturbances. It’s far and away the patrol officer’s #1 job.
Homicide clearances are the same as in 2008, at 81 per cent. So, roughly 1 in 5 go unsolved. Not bad, given the gang problem in the city.
Two other things jump out: (see chart)
1] The number of firearms/offensive weapons crimes jumped 46 per cent over 2008 — what appears to be a jump of about 200+ occurrences. A reflection of how much more potentially dangerous the city’s become — not just for the public — but for police officers as well.
2] A spike in robberies of 30 per cent, with a clearance rate of 29 per cent.
Robberies, however, were up 30 per cent last year over 2008.
That’s concerning, as robberies are frequently identified by the general public as a crime they are greatly concerned about. They should be.
In 2007-08, we saw a drop in robberies of about 16 per cent, but the clearance rate remained the same.
Arsons were also up in 2009 — by 35 per cent — but the clearance rate a slim 16 per cent.
The year before that, arsons jumped by a whopping 58 per cent, but the clearance rate was standing at about 26 per cent.
The thing that jumped out at me the most from last year’s report, however, has to be this statement:
Analysis has revealed that about 70% of the 5,000 missing person reports managed each year by the WPS are wards of child protection agencies. Many of these youths are chronic runaways, some with more than 150 police contacts. Research and experience has taught us that these chronic run- aways are frequently victimized, criminalized and exploited by predators while on the run from child- care facilities.
That just says to me the province is offloading its responsibility to care and watch over these kids to the police service and the city.
More must be done to supervise them, or the province should be kicking in more to pay for apprehending them.
Better yet — one thing the province could do is detail some probation officers to a quasi missing persons unit to head out and look for these kids. Would cost less and free up police officer time to bust robbers and gun-traffickers, instead of babysit.
But, who knows. It’s year-old news. Maybe everything’s changed since the dawn of 2010.
2009_wps_annual_report_english – PDF is 2+MB in size.
PS: I did love this picture in it to accompany the page describing the “investigative” units:
The suit-wearing suspect just says something to me, I guess.
The headline of this post is what Rose McLeod says she heard when she phoned around in an effort to get her mentally-ill husband, Joe, sprung from the Remand Centre.
I feel for her, and him. He must have been scared out of his wits being in there.
But the case is intriguing, and I’d bet to many on the inside of the system, deeply troubling on a few levels.
No person is above the law.
It’s a fundamental principle of justice that the law must be uniformly applied to everyone in society.
The administration of justice must be above political influence and the whims of the public and the press (whose views are so often looked upon by justice officials with a kind of contempt, I personally feel)
Let’s look at the facts of the McLeod case as they’ve become known:
In early September, a disoriented Joe McLeod pushes his wife, who calls police because she doesn’t know what else to do. Police arrest and charge him with assault causing bodily harm.
For some reason, police chose to detain him, perhaps over concerns for the safety of his wife and maybe the fact he has nowhere else to go that would keep him away from her (she’s a named complainant, don’t forget).
Within my understanding of WPS domestic-violence policy, the officers attending the call had no discretion but to arrest him.
He’s sent to the Remand Centre, where he’s held in a medical ward, away from general population.
On Sept. 8, Joe McLeod make his first court appearance.
His case is remanded 11 times. He appears in courtroom 304 – the domestic-violence bail court – 3 times, but fails to make a bail application.
His wife, worried sick, ramps up her efforts to try and explain the situation.
“Let the system do its work,” she says everyone told her.
Finally, the Liberal party of Manitoba, through its leader Jon Gerrard — a doctor — saw that holding a press conference to highlight McLeod’s situation was the best way to accomplish two things: Help Rose McLeod in a troubling situation, and, at the same time, criticize the NDP government, which as a matter of routine, is beyond cagy when it comes to public accountability on the justice file.
Headlines blare and the WRHA (???) is held up to talk about/explain the issue to reporters. Since when does the health authority have discretion to comment on criminal justice cases?
Reporters scratch their heads as to why, but the story continues.
The justice minister is nowhere to be found and requests to speak with him are declined.
Political pressure is applied and magnifies the plight of this one mentally-ill man.
Friday — two days after the Liberal press conference — Judge Sandy Chapman sets him free on bail so he can go live at a care home that was hastily arranged for him by health officials.
The Crown (which had the discretion to consented to his bail weeks ago if it so chose) did not oppose his release.
In effect, the bail hearing was a completely unnecessary bit of show.
Note, however, that the file changed hands from junior to senior prosecutor by Friday.
The charge against McLeod remains, and will no doubt be stayed down the road before it ever gets before a judge for a hearing. That’s my bet.
The McLeod case has me thinking a number of concerning things about the nature of justice in Manitoba.
- Either the police who arrested him and had him detained were inexperienced, OR there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling people OR they were hamstrung by the WPS’s ‘mandatory arrest’ policy in DV cases (that’s arrest, not detain, mind you), [NOTE: see comments below for a great explanation of how it works...] OR
- The Remand Centre has no intake protocol or discretion with Manitoba Justice to flag cases of concern to the Crown…OR
- If you make a big enough stink in the press you can skirt the #1 notion of the justice system (that it applies equally to all — you have to “let the system do its work” —) and get fast-tracked to the front of the line for health care services OR,
- S**t happens, mistakes get made, OR,
- You fill in the blank.
- What about the next time this happens?
- How come one press conference and a hue and cry in the media can get nearly-immediate results or action from a system that’s supposed to be above responding to such things?
- How many other accused persons with Alzheimer’s or Schizophrenia or other mental illnesses are behind bars or locked in medical wards of hospitals when they should be — as the McLeod case shows — getting care?
- Why do my legal sources — people working on the front-lines of the criminal justice system every day — tell me that 7-day mental health assessments ordered by a court for bail purposes routinely take 5-6 weeks to prepare?
- Why are there only two doctors in Manitoba currently doing these assessments, along with a range of other duties?
- How can any WRHA official use the excuse of “the case is before the courts, and therefore we can’t comment” ever again?
- Where is the mental health court that former Attorney General Dave Chomiak promised Manitobans?
UPDATE: there was never any peace bond. The woman applied for a protection order. The two can’t be confused in Manitoba.
And, reports that she applied for one yesterday were erroneous.
She just got the order after a hearing in front of a Justice of the Peace this morning, just before noon.
So, apologies are in order to the province and the justice department.
Just heard Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger on CBC radio commenting on his relief that Amanda Westervelt obtained a peace bond against Kevin Steppan, the sex-offender who was released from Headingley yesterday.
I am assuming that the media are not confusing protection order with peace bond. (See above note: they did)
A peace bond is different, and at the province’s own admission, more complex (and far more time-consuming) to obtain.
Steppan was also to be afforded the right to appear to hear the evidence for that application and ask questions about her evidence.
With a protection order, he has no such right. He will be served with the order and can apply to have it set aside, but that’s unlikely to happen.
According to the province’s own information sheet:
Applicants can apply to their local Provincial Court office for a Peace Bond. Provincial Court judges hear applications for Peace Bonds. The respondent is advised of the application and both the applicant and respondent have to appear in court. The respondent has the right to question the applicant. It can take several weeks to get an initial court date. It can take months before a judge will hear the Peace Bond application. Bonds are issued for a specific period of time, up to a maximum of one year. There is no fee to apply for a Peace Bond.
I take no issue with Westervelt wanting some relief for her and her son, and I’m sincerely glad she found some.
It was odd to hear Selinger on the radio talking about how he’s relieved Westervelt’s bond is now in place.
According to the news item, Selinger admitted that media pressure played a role in convincing justice officials to reconsider her situation.
It goes without saying, everyone’s on edge knowing that Steppan is free.