Sunday, July 02, 2006

Short Sentence

The man whose case led to the unofficial creation of discount sentencing for minority offenders in Ontario is about to take advantage again of that amazing judicial offer:

A Toronto man who allegedly opened fire on paramedics and police officers early Thursday turned himself last night.

Police called off the manhunt for 23-year-old Quinn Borde, who had earned a small place in legal history three years ago when the Ontario Court of Appeal weighed his sentence for his role in another rash of gun violence and concluded that penalties
for young, black offenders can be reduced or tailored to reflect systemic racism in Canadian society.

Mr. Borde, who now faces attempted murder and gun charges after turning himself in at 52 Division, had previously pleaded guilty to three gun crimes, committed within weeks of each other in the summer of 2000 while he was on probation.


Mr. Borde received a penitentiary term of five years and two months, on top of the time he had spent in custody.

In a unanimous 3-0 ruling, the appeal court cut that sentence by one year, agreeing that the trial judge had taken insufficient account of Mr. Borde's youth -- he was 18 at the time of the shootings -- and his angst-ridden life at the bleak Regent Park public housing complex where he grew up.


"Systemic racism and the background factors faced by black youths in Toronto are important matters and in another case I believe they could affect the sentence," Mr. Justice Marc Rosenberg wrote on behalf of himself and Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor and Madam Justice Karen Weiler.

Question: if Mr. Borde had grown up a privileged WASP in Rosedale and gone to Upper Canada College, would his sentence have been increased to reflect the fact that as a child of privilege, he should have known better?

And isn't that really an insulting argument to minority offenders to suggest that they really can't learn any better than to turn to crime, and should be given a break as a result?

Even the Court of Appeal thought better of the precedent it was setting, and tried to resile from it:

When (defence lawyer David) Tanovich pursued the same argument at the Court of Appeal 18 months later, on behalf of three black women convicted of smuggling cocaine into Canada from Jamaica, the three-judge panel -- one of whom was the same Judge O'Connor -- rejected it.

"A sentencing proceeding is . . . not the forum in which to right perceived societal wrongs . . . or make up for perceived social injustices," the court wrote this time around.

In any event, how would the courts balance competing racial, sexual and economic factors in determining a sentence? Does a black man from a wealthy family get the same benefit of the racial discount? Would a poor white man still have a racial surcharge added to his sentence? What about a mixed-race offender? How about if he's homosexual? Muslim?

Would sentencing charts and formulae have been needed to sort out the matter?

No wonder the Court of Appeal had a new revelation. Their brethren above might not have wanted to clean up that particular mess for them.

Source: Globe and Mail

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