Rolling the Dice with Violent Offenders

Mark Milke
August 23, 2010
If the chattering classes want to know why the public thinks crime is still an issue, maybe they should look at how "ex"-criminals get to create new victims all over again....

Rolling the Dice with Violent Offenders

Mark Milke
August 23, 2010
If the chattering classes want to know why the public thinks crime is still an issue, maybe they should look at how "ex"-criminals get to create new victims all over again....
Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter

If the chattering classes wonder why much of the public is unconvinced by their call to heed the latest, marginally lower crime figures as a reason to dispense with tougher sentencing and more prisons, here’s a suggestion: review some examples of criminals who were released from jail and how their past exits led to new victims.

Here’s one recent example from just this past month. In Calgary, Kelly Davey, 50, was released after a two-year federal prison sentence for sexual assault and failure to comply with a probation order. In their warning, Calgary Police Service notes Davey’s lengthy criminal record — he’s got convictions as far back as 1978 on sexual assault, robbery, assault and uttering threats. But if he’s still such a danger, why didn’t the Crown somewhere in his many past convictions recognize that and petition for him to be classed as a dangerous offender? Instead — and this obviously is not the fault of police — we’re back to dice-rolling on Davey’s future and ours.

Or consider Sean Douglas Macleod, convicted in 1995 of kidnapping a six-year-old girl out of her Calgary home and sexually assaulting her. He was sentenced to 17 years; he was released after one decade and with a caution from the Victoria police that he posed a risk to reoffend.

Then, there was the 2008 story about Vancouverite William Edward Marshall, convicted of breaking and entering, thieving and assaulting — 148 times since 1979. He’s the archetypical example of a chronic offender in the criminal justice system with a revolving door, still receiving only 30- or 90-day sentences.

In 2009, Cory Lawrence Bitternose was convicted of a 2008 sexual assault of two young women in Banff. He’d already had prior convictions for aggravated assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement. His previous attacks on women included a 1992 Calgary incident where he beat a woman so severely that her face was left with a sneaker imprint. After this last conviction, the Crown sought dangerous offender status for Bitternose.

It is those examples of criminals that explain why many people don’t have a problem with longer sentences, more frequent and early designations of dangerous offender status, and more prisons in which to hold them.

I’m not suggesting the laws shouldn’t be followed in any of these cases, or that they be made retroactive to keep people in longer. A civilized society doesn’t change the rules mid-stream. But in designing reforms and pondering the need for prisons, a civilized society also doesn’t confuse actual compassion with sloppy sentimentality.

Compassion has to be prioritized or it’s not compassion. At the top of my list are children, other innocents, those down on their luck, and the rest of us.

How one prioritizes the exact order at the top of the list doesn’t matter as much as clarity that their rights trump those on the very bottom — criminals who are chronic, violent or sadistic. By their very repetition, they demonstrate they can no longer be trusted with the rights the rest of us naturally assume.

Laws, sentences, and perhaps even the attitudes of some justices — and I emphasize some — must reflect that prioritization, or new victims will result.

To twist the meaning of compassion by conferring the benefits of freedom on those who already frequently abuse it, is not compassionate; it is to replace facts with the fantasy that everyone is redeemable. In terms of their first horrific crimes, exactly how many extra chances should have been given to face-stomping Bitternose or the child rapist Macleod? My answer would be none.

Perhaps the deeper problem here is that at least some social scientists, politicians and justices subscribe to the hubris that their theoretical calculations about who will reoffend are bulletproof representations of reality. Similarly, they also assume the very souls of individual human beings are capable of endless manipulations towards a good end.

On the first fallacy — not yet, if ever; on the second, even if some chronically violent or sadistic sexual offender might never reoffend, remind me why the rest of us must take the risk?

Why we should serve as an endless social science experiment to see if chronic offenders with their umpteenth chance will or will not again maim, rape, assault and murder? That’s folly and an abdication of common sense.

Sensible sentencing for non-dangerous offenders, debates about the same and rehabilitation where possible are all fine questions to visit often. But only in their proper context.

The most compassionate action and the first responsibility of rulers and courts is always to first protect the innocent. That trumps all else, including misplaced fantasies on chronic criminality that allow yet another chance to offend.

Mark Milke is the chairman of the C2C Editorial Board.

Love C2C Journal? Here's how you can help us grow.

More for you

Want More Affordable Housing in Canada? Build More Houses

Solving Canada’s housing crisis shouldn’t require more than a single lesson in economics. When prices are high, a free market always responds and supplies more. Yet amidst Canada’s severe problems of housing affordability, this foolproof mechanism is continually frustrated by governments that are either ignorant of how markets work, fixated on preserving the status quo or display naked contempt for the profit motive. Peter Shawn Taylor looks at the scorn heaped on land developers, landlords and the rest of the housing supply industry and wonders how they became the villains of this story.

Thinking Clearly in a Time of Panic

How should the conservative mind respond to the coronavirus pandemic? Panic and despair are in ample supply, and the urge to succumb appears widespread. Others have steered, via deliberate ignorance, to fatalism, though the walls are closing in on such rebels. Both extremes are beneath thoughtful conservatives. C2C Editor-in-Chief George Koch counsels that however dark today might appear, the eternal search for objective truth – the foundation for all conservative thought – is the first necessary step along the path to seeing humankind through to brighter days.

Future of Conservatism Series Part IV: Rallying the World’s Centre-Right Parties

As Canada’s Conservatives evaluate leadership hopefuls and ponder what their party is about and which path might lead to electoral victory, it’s easy to ignore international politics. They should take a look, for the world holds dozens of established centre-right democratic parties, and many are tackling challenges of relevance and adaptation at least as steep as those burdening Canada’s Conservatives. John Weissenberger travelled to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference of the International Democrat Union (IDU) and provides his assessment in this essay. Later this year, once international travel is restored, Weissenberger heads to Vienna to deepen his understanding at the IDU’s 2020 Forum.

Averting “Climate Poverty” for Canada’s Middle Class

Pursuing grandiose visions tends to cloud judgment, and when the vision is saving our very planet from an apprehended climate crisis, it’s little surprise that numbers are fudged, logic is twisted, the hardest-hit are ignored and entire social classes are cast into the trash. Matthew Lau, however, refuses to be dazzled by dreams. In this article, Lau remains rooted in reality and fixed on crunching the numbers to come up with some arresting conclusions about the huge costs of government climate policies to working people here and now, set against marginal if not ephemeral benefits to come over the next 80 years.

Hit the Bench: Beverley McLachlin’s Reputation Takes a Dive in Retirement

When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin stepped down in 2017, she was regarded as one of the most consequential jurists in Canadian history, largely due to her court’s activist approach to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Her career arc was also widely considered a triumph of progressive feminism in the face of an entrenched legal patriarchy. That reputation is due for a re-assessment. Grant A. Brown sifts through the evidence of McLachlin’s autobiography and various post-retirement missteps, and unearths what he feels is a surprising lack of principle, objectivity and sound reasoning.

Stronger Alliances with First Nations Could Help Overcome Blockade Disruptions

The sight of Justin Trudeau’s ministers genuflecting before petty aristocrats, anarchists, tire-burners and masked thugs sickened millions of Canadians – and made some of us think about hoarding critical supplies. Aside from the venality and sheer ineffectiveness of the Liberals’ approach, Gwyn Morgan was struck by our enlightened rulers’ bone-headed misunderstanding of diplomacy. Going cap-in-hand to the people who despise you is unlikely to end well. And when there are other options, it’s unforgivable. Morgan suggests instead applying age-old principles of diplomacy – like supporting one’s allies to maximize their influence. He should know, for he has done it himself.

Share This Story

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on print

Donate

Subscribe to the C2C Weekly
It's Free!

* indicates required