Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teen gets one day in jail for killing man

Judge's hands tied by new youth act

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A Winnipeg teen who beat an Iraqi immigrant to death with a pool ball hidden in a sock was sentenced yesterday to one day in jail under Canada's controversial new Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Provincial court Judge Ron Meyers admitted the former Young Offender's Act -- no stranger to criticism itself -- certainly packed a stronger punch than the new law which took effect this past spring.

Meyers said judges are no longer permitted to consider deterrence as a sentencing factor.

"There is every likelihood that had sentencing taken place prior to April 1, the Crown's request that (the teen) serve a substantial portion of the 12 to 15 months (in jail) would have been a fitting disposition," said Meyers.

Instead, he gave the teen -- who can't be named under the act -- one day of open custody followed by 15 months of conditional supervision in the community.

The judge said the teen's court appearance yesterday would count as his one day served in jail so, after the court hearing, the teen was free to go.

His bail conditions include attending school or seeking employment, not owning weapons, completing anger management, not possessing any drugs or alcohol, and following a daily curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

"There is now in place a new sentencing philosophy -- one that accentuates rehabilitation and reintegration," said Meyers.

"The purpose of sentencing under the Youth Criminal Justice Act is to provide just sanctions that have meaningful consequences to the offender and promote his rehabilitation and reintegration into society, thereby contributing to the long-term protection of the public."

The teen pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and Meyers cited his expression of "sincere" remorse, a minimal criminal record, his young age and his personal background as factors in the sentence.

Chya Saleh, 22, was killed in August 2001 after exchanging some heated words with the teen on a downtown doorstep. The teen, who was 15 years old at the time, says he doesn't recall the incident because he was too drunk.

The Crown said the argument appeared to be "defused", prompting Saleh to walk towards his car in an attempt to leave. The teen followed, smashing one of his car windows with a pool ball inside of a sock, court was told. The weapon was then used to strike Saleh in the head.

A bleeding Saleh got back into his damaged car and drove himself back to his apartment. A concerned neighbour, seeing blood stains leading to his suite, contacted police.

Saleh was found dead inside the suite. An autopsy pinpointed the cause of death as blunt trauma to the head.

Saleh was described by loved ones as a kind, righteous young man who looked forward to a new life in Canada.

He told friends he was a Kurd who had fled Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime in Iraq.

Saleh left his family home in As Sulaymaniyah in northeastern Iraq as a refugee in 2000 to first settle in Toronto, and then moved to Winnipeg to find a job and go to school to improve his English.

The Crown has been unable to reach any of Saleh's family members in the Middle East since his killing.

Saleh was working as a pizza delivery driver at the time of his death.

Ironically, Saleh feared returning to Iraq "because it was too dangerous," according to his former girlfriend.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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