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Extra credit granted to serial robber

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He's a serial break-and-enter artist who was denied a shot at bail because of his criminal past — a development that should have blocked him from getting a shorter sentence.

But a Manitoba provincial court judge has granted Gordon Kovich a major break and lopped several extra months off the period he'll now have to serve behind bars.

Kovich was handed two years in prison this week after pleading guilty to 15 break-and-enter charges taking place between late 2010 and 2012.

The crimes, committed to fuel the 23-year-old's severe addiction to OxyContin, occasionally involved him hiding inside department stores until they closed and he could steal from them.

But instead of allowing Kovich only the routine remand-time credit of one day for each that he's spent in jail awaiting the outcome of his case, provincial court Judge Mary Kate Harvie ordered he receive extra credit.

Her ruling resulted in 19 months of his actual so-called "dead time" treated as if he had served just shy of 24 months.

Earlier this year, Harvie had struck down in Kovich's case a February 2010 amendment to Canada's Criminal Code prohibiting offenders like him from obtaining "enhanced credit" for their remand time. The law was changed as part of the federal government's Truth in Sentencing Act.

Section 719 (3.1) of the Criminal Code mandates that offenders who are denied bail because of their criminal records — as Kovich was — aren't entitled to even ask for enhanced credit of up to 1.5 days to one when they're sentenced. 

That's unfair and creates a kind of "double jeopardy" for some criminals, Harvie ruled in Kovich's case.

The new law creates "gross disproportionality" between individual offenders at sentencing because those who are denied bail can wind up spending "significantly" more time in jail than others, and that's against the principles of fundamental justice, Harvie said her decision.

"The denial of an accused bail 'primarily because of a previous conviction' impacts directly on the discretion afforded a sentencing judge when considering an application for enhanced credit for time spent in custody," Harvie said. 

"The principles of sentencing are well recognized and do not include a consideration of an offender’s bail status. The practical application of this provision means an offender’s criminal record acts as a form of double jeopardy, and precludes an appropriate assessment of (pre-sentence custody)," she wrote.

Harvie indicated on Wednesday she was granting Kovich a measure of extra credit because he had been employed in jail, had taken Bible study and participated other programs.

Delays in finalizing the matter were also an issue, she said.

Kovich, who comes from a background of "generalized dysfunction," showed he would have been entitled to early-release credit if he had been a sentenced prisoner, said Harvie.

It's expected the Crown will appeal now that the case is finalized.

 

James.Turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 6:23 PM CST: Corrects spelling of Kovich; Adds more details.

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