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Justice delayed, justice denied?

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He is deaf, nearly blind, suffers from a disease similar to Alzheimer's and is 93-years-old.

And on Tuesday, he narrowly escaped going to prison.

Philippe Hamelin will instead spend the next two years under a conditional sentence that allows him to remain free in the community. The Montreal man was convicted of sexually abusing two daughters when they were children nearly 50 years ago.

The victims only came forward recently.

The Crown was seeking between seven and nine years in prison for Hamelin, which surely would have resulted in him spending his final days behind bars. (Read story by clicking HERE)

This was not an easy case.

On one hand, it can easily be argued Hamelin would have done a lengthy prison term had he been a healthier, younger man. What he did to his daughters was despicable and certainly cries out for strong punishment. Should Hamelin's advanced age and dwindling health "spare him the rod"?

On the other hand, it would be impossible to argue that Hamelin still poses an ongoing danger to society and needs to be locked away. Obviously he doesn't. And the principle of "specific deterrence" does not apply here, as Hamelin doesn't need a prison term to keep him on the straight and narrow and send a message to him that his actions were wrong.

However, things are much greyer when it comes to the principle of general deterrence - essentially, sending the message to all other offenders that there will be consequences for their actions.

For example, does the fact Hamelin now avoids real jail tell others that "justice delayed is justice denied?" Or is his case so unique in its facts that these types of concerns don't apply.

Quebec court Judge Andre Perreault said in his ruling Tuesday that Hamelin ruined his daughter's lives and applauded the women for having the courage to finally come forward about what happened.

But the judge said he had to take into consideration Hamelin's age and health.

Personally, I think the proper balance was struck here and the right call was made. I don't believe a dangerous precedent has been set based on the rare circumstances of this case.

When we talked about this during my national "Crime and Punishment" radio show this past Sunday, most callers agreed a jail term was unnecessary. Clearly the judge agreed.

Do you?

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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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