by Peter Worthington
What sort of a world do the people who run our courts live in?
We of the unwashed masses remember when David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto’s Kensington Market area, was initially charged with kidnapping and assault for tackling and tying up a thief who robbed his store.
Police even got the thief to testify against Chen.
Public opinion was all for Chen, and swayed authorities to the point where Chen today is something of a folk hero.
A decade or more ago, a guy in Hamilton was charged for firing a shotgun at the pavement that ricocheted and wounded a guy who was in the process of robbing a neighbour’s garage.
Again, the law seemed blind to the offence that provoked the guy to defend his neighbour’s property. Despite what seemed an obvious act of good citizenship, the guy who fired the shotgun was deemed irresponsible, at fault and a bad example for the community.
He and Chen were examples the public were warned not to emulate.
And now we have another case. One night in 2009, Brian Knight, who owns property near Red Deer, Alta., spotted three guys invading his property.
Two ran away, but the third guy stole his all-terrain vehicle and sped off. Knight chased him in his car and forced the ATV into a ditch. When the thief ran away, Knight fired a shotgun loaded with light birdshot that didn’t do much harm to the thief.
When cops arrived, the thief was eventually sentenced to 30 days.
For defending and recovering his property, Knight was convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and sentenced to 90 days — three times the sentence that the thief got.
Never mind that last week the Alberta Court of Appeal reduced the jail sentence to community service. The fact is that the sentence still stands.
Knight, a solid and productive citizen with a wife and three small kids, now has a criminal record and may not be permitted to enter the U.S., where he is supposed to take a firefighting course.
How dare this guy be saddled with a criminal record for doing what most of us hope we’d do if we were confronted with the same circumstances.
Ironically, Knight seems to feel he was lucky to get jail reduced to community service. And perhaps he is right, the way our courts work.
Even he points out that if he’d used a bigger gun, and severely injured the thief, he’d likely have been sentenced to 15 years. All for defending his property.
Chen inadvertently got the citizen arrest law amended in Canada, but that doesn’t help the Brian Knights who mistakenly fight back against criminals seeking to do them damage.
Why can’t judges exercise common sense in such cases? Especially when police and the Crown follow the letter of the law and seem unable to distinguish who is the good guy and who is the bad.
Knight is so obviously a good citizen that one hopes his conviction is reversed and he is applauded for his behaviour — rather as Chen was vindicated by none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who visited his store and purchased maple syrup.
Maybe the PM should shake Knight’s hand the next time he visits Alberta.