Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Flight of fancy' leads to legal rebuke

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A Manitoba judge is under fire from within after the province's highest court found he "embellished" evidence presented to him by lawyers and handed down an illegal sentence.

Brian Corrin, who sits in the provincial court, was the subject of a stinging Court of Appeal decision obtained Friday by the Free Press.

Chief Justice Richard Scott pulls no punches in assessing Corrin's handling of a case involving a Winnipeg university student who damaged 13 red-light cameras during a year-long vandalism spree.

The Crown was seeking a conditional sentence while the man's lawyer asked for a discharge after Patrick Gavin, 23, pleaded guilty to several charges of mischief.

Corrin ignored both requests during the July hearing, giving Gavin a five-month intermittent jail sentence -- even though the maximum allowed by law is 90 days.

Corrin also dished out a lengthy lecture about the man's "political agenda" as a "personal tyranny... putting at risk the delicate compromise of democratic governance that has evolved in Canada since its formation as a country."

"The judge inappropriately embellished the circumstances before the court beyond the particular facts placed in evidence," Scott wrote in the appeal court's decision.

"This is the antithesis of the approach that should be taken by the judiciary and can't be condoned."

Scott said Corrin was wrong to suggest Gavin was "the principal player in what he seemed to see as a domestic terrorist organization."

Corrin even noted how the War Measures Act was implemented in 1969 and included the short-term suspension of all civil liberties in Quebec "in response to the criminal conduct of certain members of the FLQ in that province."

He also invoked comparisons to staged expressions of civil disobedience such as Martin Luther King, saying Gavin did something much worse with a "full frontal and illegal assault against the state and by implication, all the law abiding citizens of Winnipeg."

"There was absolutely no evidence to support this flight of fancy," said Scott.

The appeal court also criticized Corrin for refusing to allow lawyers to make further submissions when it was clear he was going to reject their proposed sentences.

"He admonished counsel for their 'intellectual arrogance' in assuming the court would accept the sentencing range agreed to by Crown and defence," said Scott.

Gavin's jail sentence was overturned Friday and replaced with a two-year conditional discharge. He must also pay $29,000 in damages and perform 240 hours of community service work.

Gavin has no prior criminal record and apologized for his actions, which occurred between October 2004 and August 2005 and were described as acts of "civil disobedience."

Professors say Gavin is an "excellent student" who is planning for a career in teaching.

Corrin told the man he was "unfit" to teach children because of his "cold-blooded" crimes.

Three co-accused also pleaded guilty and were given conditional charges and restitution orders of $5,000 each.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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