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Judge Giesbrecht was one of the good ones

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I always knew it was going to be a long day when I'd walk into a Winnipeg courtroom and see Linda Giesbrecht sitting behind the bench.

This is not meant to be taken as a criticism. In fact, far from it. Spend enough time at the downtown Law Courts and you are often left with the same feeling you get in line at the deli counter.

"Next!"

All too often it seems quantity, not quality, is the order of the day. And with massive dockets, it's hard to blame those who work in the system with trying to be as quick as possible. But it can often leave a bad taste in the mouths of victims, family members and yes, even the criminals, when such important, even life changing events feel rushed.

Judge Giesbrecht was different. Thick docket be damned, she was going to take her sweet time. And that meant everyone sitting in her courtroom knew they were going to get a fair shake and have their voices be heard. It also meant getting a refresher on the Criminal Code, as she often read out long passages about the law to justify and explain her decisions.

I'll never forget covering one of Giesbrecht's cases back in 2001. It was a terrible tragedy involving a man suffering from extreme fetal alcohol syndrome who beat his roommate to death in a fit of uncontrolled rage.

Giesbrecht spent MONTHS with this file, remanding it numerous times as she kept asking Crown and defence lawyers for more detailed information and reports from various medial and social experts. She wanted to know as much as she could about the victim, the offender and what needed to be done to ensure he was both punished and treated for a condition that was imposed on him by his alcoholic mother.

When Giesbrecht finally did impose a sentence - two years in jail followed by a unique three-year probation order - she still wasn't done.

In a rare move, Giesbrecht moved beyond her regular sentencing duties and planted herself directly in the middle of the man's rehabilitation. She ordered him to appear before her on a continuing basis to discuss details of his probation to ensure he was on the right track.

There were many ups and downs which followed, but Giesbrecht kept on top of the case in a way I've never seen a judge do.

This was just one example, of course. But it perfectly illustrates how much care she put into her job. And it stuck with me throughout the years.

I was sad to learn in 2010 that Judge Giesbrecht was retiring, as I knew Manitoba was losing one of the true "good ones."

And I was stunned to learn this week that she had passed away suddenly, having been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of lymphoma just last month.

Linda Giesbrecht was just 61. Her service is being held on Friday May 24 at 2 p.m. at the Winkler Sommerfeld Mennonite Church, 189-2nd Street. In lieu of  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Judge Giesbrecht's memory to CancerCare Manitoba, donate@cancercare.mb.ca or to Variety the Children's Charity, admin@varietymanitoba.com.

 

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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