Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Judge eyes ignoring mandatory term

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A Manitoba judge is set to decide whether he will override a mandatory prison sentence for a bullying victim who reached his breaking point and lashed out against his abusers.

Legal eyes across the country will no doubt be focused on the verdict expected to come out of a Brandon courtroom this afternoon.

Queen's Bench Justice John Menzies has made no secret about his disdain for the federal legislation that requires him to impose a sentence of at least four years behind bars. Now the only question is whether Menzies holds his nose in handing down the term or goes out on a legal limb.

The case involves Bryce McMillan, 21, who pleaded guilty to reckless use of a firearm for the September 2011 incident in Carberry.

He admits firing six rounds from a .22-calibre rifle into the residence of one of the people he claims had frequently tormented him. Nobody was injured, although two people were inside the residence at the time. McMillan, 21, claims he thought the house was empty.

"A human can only take so much before they push back, and I was at the end of my rope and didn't know what else to do," McMillan told a Brandon court at his sentencing earlier this year. "My intention was to send a message and say 'back off and leave me alone.' "

The Crown is seeking the mandatory minimum sentence for the weapons-related crime. But Menzies balked at the suggestion, saying it seems ridiculous to send an otherwise law-abiding citizen such as McMillan to a penitentiary considering the unique circumstance of his crime.

"We're going to victimize this victim yet again and do it in the name of justice?" Menzies asked Crown and defence lawyers during submissions earlier this year. He reserved his decision but put them on notice he may take the rare step of issuing a "constitutional exemption" and go under the required minimum penalty first enacted in 2008.

 

-- Mike McIntyre

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 A4

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