Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Hurt feelings, lost lives
Let me see if I have this right.A Winnipeg man kills a woman after a night of partying and drinking, slamming into the back of her car as she's stopped at a red light, and will likely not do a single day behind bars.Meanwhile, a Winnipeg man swears at a judge for a few seconds in court and is sentenced to 45 days as a result of his behaviour. (Read story HERE
)Anyone else out there feel a tad uncomfortable with this????Now, I realize in some ways comparing the two cases is like apples and oranges.The foul-mouthed felon, Michael Kolba, is clearly a troubled young man with a hair-trigger temper and a violent past. As a Winnipeg courtroom heard this week, Kolba lost his cool after Judge Brian Corrin denied him bail. And although he apologized for his outburst, both the Crown and the sentencing judge, Kelly Moar, felt jail was the only fit punishment.The deadly car crasher, former Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk, is regarded as an upstanding citizen with no prior record who made a a terrible mistake. As a Winnipeg courtroom last week, Harvey-Zenk has already resigned from his job and now carries a heavy burden for his actions.
The story has since taken on a life of its own over serious misconduct allegations against former East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema
and the role that may have played in drunk driving charges being dropped and the Crown recommending a conditional sentence. Chief Judge Ray Wyant has reserved his decision.Still, I can't help but feel there's something wrong with a system that will send a person to jail for hurting someone's feelings - yet keep a person in the community for stealing someone's life.The federal Conservative government has made plenty of noise recently about bringing in some mandatory minimum jail sentences for violent crimes.I personally believe that should include offences of dangerous and/or drunk driving causing death. Yet many lawyers I talk to don't think that will ever happen.Their reason? Harvey-Zenk committed what many view as a "crime of the middle class" - an otherwise law-abiding citizen making a tragic error in judgment. And the government would never want to create a situation where the Harvey-Zenk's of this world are automatically tossed in jail.Judges often talk of "specific deterrence", and it's clear jail wouldn't accomplish much in that area for most of the people who find themselves in these types of situations. I don't doubt for a second that Harvey-Zenk and so many others are racked with guilt that will never go away.Yet what about the principle of "general deterrence"? What is being done right now to scare the ^&%#$! out of others who might follow the same tragic path following a day and night of partying, drinking and sleep deprivation?It's a tough issue, one that I suspect Chief Judge Wyant is having a difficult time weighing.But judging by the volume of phone calls and e-mails I've received in the past week, the court of public opinion is definitely in session.Feel free to post your views below.