Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Career criminal declared dangerous offender

History of violence 'atrocious': justice

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A career Manitoba criminal has been declared a dangerous offender -- a rare designation that comes with an indefinite prison term.

Clifford Osborne, 32, hung his head Wednesday after learning he was being slapped with the most serious sanction available under the Criminal Code. There is no expiry to his sentence and it's possible Osborne will spend the rest of his days behind bars.

"The criminal record of Mr. Osborne is atrocious," Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar said in his written decision. Osborne's convictions include numerous assaults, weapon offences, sex-related crimes and failing to abide by a number of court orders. He has attacked various people on the streets and in custody, often resulting in serious injuries.

"For the past 14 years, he has spent most of his time incarcerated," said Dewar.

Osborne's latest crime, which triggered the Crown application, was a March 2009 attack on a 25-year-old woman. She found Osborne passed out inside her home following a party and ordered him to leave. Osborne responded by violently attacking her. She suffered extensive cuts and bruising.

Two parole officers testified at Osborne's sentencing hearing about the serious risk he continues to pose to the public. Dewar said Wednesday it's clear that extensive change is required if Osborne is ever going to be released.

"His record, inclusive of the predicate offence, clearly shows a pattern of repetitive behaviour by Mr. Osborne, showing a failure to restrain his behaviour," said Dewar.

"An objective assessment of this pattern, with little tangible evidence that Mr. Osborne has changed, prompts a conclusion that there is a real likelihood of his causing injury to other persons, or inflicting severe psychological damage on other persons, through failure in the future to restrain his behaviour."

Osborne was raised in a tragic environment, court was told. His father was physically abusive to his family and drug and alcohol use was rampant. He bounced around various foster homes as a child and was sexually abused during one placement.

Defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk had argued that Osborne's background didn't fit the tough criteria needed to sustain the label of dangerous offender. He said Osborne should be given a fixed sentence of three years along with strict supervisory conditions to follow.

But Dewar said Osborne's previous disregard for court-ordered assistance gives him little hope of success.

"A review of his record indicates that probation conditions have meant little to him in the past. Not only has he not respected them, but he has committed serious offences when he was under them," said Dewar.

"Furthermore, Mr. Osborne's record in custody does not instill confidence that he has a willingness or capacity to improve."

Osborne will participate in annual progress reviews by the National Parole Board, which will determine whether he is fit to return to society.

"I don't view this as a life sentence, and nor should you. You're not ready to be released yet, but there are things you can do in order to get ready to be released," Dewar told him.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2012 A7

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