Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
You wonder why judges claim their hands are tied
Here's a perfect example of why judges are often so limited in their ability to hand down significant sentences.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled Monday that a lower court judge was WRONG to sentence a former first nation chief to jail for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.
As a result, Oliver Bird will be allowed to sleep in his house, not a prison cell as his two-year custody sentence was converted to a conditional penalty.
Bird, now 65, pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sent to the "big house" despite a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers that he be allowed to remain in the community.
Queen's Bench Justice Colleen Suche wasn't impressed and jumped the proposed sentence.
Now it's Manitoba's highest court that's not impressed. They ruled Suche had no grounds to ignore the proposed conditional sentence and overturned her decision.
So much for trying to make a difference.
Bird's crime dates back more than two decades and occurred while he was chief of Little Black River First Nation. The teen victim was living in foster care in Winnipeg when Bird visited her home and had forced sexual intercourse with her.
I can't think of a much more substantial breach of trust than that.
Bird claims he has no memory of the attack but says he pleaded guilty because his lawyer urged him to. Even though the move spared the victim from testifying, Suche said Bird showed "no meaningful acceptance of responsibility for the assault."
Unfortunately, Suche's attempts to mete out some real justice have snuffed out. And that's a shame.
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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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