Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Reduced sentence for troubled criminal
It was the type of crime which typically cries out for a lengthy prison sentence, but Lawrence Harper will only do two years behind bars, thanks largely to a slew of cognitive issues which a Manitoba judge says must be considered.
Harper, 32, was sentenced today for a random robbery and sexual assault on a young female victim who was walking downtown. The much larger Harper punched and kicked her, rummaged through her pockets to grab loose change and tried to pull her clothes off before a passing motorist scared him away.
The victim, who was not in court, continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress and described hitting "rock-bottom emotionally" in a statement presented to the court.
Queen’s Bench Justice Rick Saull said he was giving Harper a lighter sentence than other offenders might have received because of several factors: Harper suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome, is schizophrenic, has a long history of substance addiction and had a "chaotic childhood" filled with neglect and abuse.
"Sentencing is a very individualized process," said Saull, describing Harper as someone who has a "limited ability to function in society." Still, the judge rejected Harper’s request for even more leniency in the form of a suspended sentence which would have kept him free in the community. Saull said a period in prison is needed, where hopefully Harper will take advantage of the various programs and treatment options he desperately needs.
Harper will also be placed on three years of supervised probation upon his release from custody.
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