Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Appeal needed in outrageous sentence reduction for killer of Grant DePatie, gas station attendant dragged to death

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday April 10, 2007

DePatie appeal needed


There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe it's because as a young man I spent many shifts working alone in gas stations, just like Grant DePatie did before he was dragged 7.5 kilometres to his death in a gas-and-dash robbery in 2005.

Or maybe it's because B.C. Supreme Court Judge Lance Bernard found that Darnell Pratt, the then 16-year-old car thief and killer bragged to his friends that he had heard DePatie's screams from under the car as he begged Pratt to stop.

But whatever the reason, I am disgusted that last week the B.C. Court of Appeal reduced Pratt's already lenient sentence of nine years to just seven years.

And it doesn't matter that Pratt is a young aboriginal with a terrible family background, reasons the Appeal Court cited for a lesser sentence. As unfortunate as that is, it doesn't excuse his crime or the need for punishment.

But worst of all is that B.C. Liberal Attorney-General Wally Oppal won't appeal the sentence reduction to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Oppal, whose judicial career I respect, should immediately order an appeal.

Oppal must show the utter repugnance British Columbians feel for the decision of the three Appeal Court justices who gave a break to the teen killer, regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court of Canada agrees to a hearing.

Instead Oppal is arguing that it's "unlikely" the Supreme Court of Canada would hear the sentence appeal.

Is this the same Attorney-General Oppal who in 2006 ordered an appeal of the lenient two-year sentence given by the B.C. Supreme Court to Jenny Woloshyn, a drunk driver who killed 23-year-old David Firenze?

Oppal had a different story in that case: "We just think the sentence in this particular case is contrary to the law. The criminal justice system can never be out of touch with the public pulse. We must be accountable to the public."

So where is the public accountability now, in an even more horrific crime?

Maybe former B.C. Court of Appeal judge Oppal is too close to his old colleagues to see that the public interest demands he challenge this outrageous decision.

Or maybe the B.C. Liberal government, which did nothing to protect gas station attendants working alone overnight after DePatie's death until forced into it by the young man's courageous family and the B.C. Federation of Labour, is again out of touch with reality.

But you will not get a clearer case crying out for an appeal.

Mr. Oppal, please don't let this unjust decision go without a challenge. Grant DePatie deserves at least that much respect.


Anonymous said...

I agree 100%. I was very pleased to see NDP Justice Critic Mike Farnworth immediately demanding that Oppal direct Crown to appeal. I suggest everyone email Oppal and demand an appeal to this outrageous decision.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with your column, Bill. It's one thing to be compassionate in some cases of juvenile lawlesness, but quite another matter to minimize acts of violence. Juveniles should get no special consideration when it comes to violent crimes. Good to see Mike Farnsworth com out strongly on this case too. As a lifelong NDPer I support a strong stand against crime and criminals.

Anonymous said...

We all would like to see Wally push for an appeal. But let's not forget it was a unanamous decision by the three judges and a attempt to go to the Supreme Court of Canada can be denied with no requirment as to what they won't do it. A awful case no matter what happens. dl

tinaz said...

I disagree with your column because the appeal court did the right thing for a change since the sentencing of 9 years for a 16 year old at the time of the "killing" was under the young offenders act, therefore against the statute.

Wanting to have boys and girls tried like adults and sentenced as adults is wrong and does not correct the problem.

I want judges to follow the law and the BC court of Appeal did abide by the law this time.

When people out side the legal community make remarks such as the one you are making, it makes the case for lawyers and judges who lament that lay people don't understand the law. Do not fall into that trap, rather get yourself educated about the different laws and than you will be able to make clear distinction, regarding judge’s decisions, which often times are not within the rule of law.

Perhaps you should consider writing about Justice Peter Leask who argued behind the bench in order to exonerate a hells angels, who may be a drug dealer selling to young children, who end up on the wrong side of the track.

You know Bill the tragedy with our Judges, is that they were all lawyers, therefore do not have the capacity to be listeners of justice but rather argue the case.

Tina Z.

flipper said...

I don't know how a 16 year old can be called a criminal. Isn't the point of having a young offenders act that they are not yet "criminals" and our society wants to put an effort into helping them change their lives for the better.
Sentencing decisions are difficult, I am sure, and there are circumstances casual observers may not be aware of, but if you want to look at comparisons, consider the murder of the Aaron, the gay man, in Stanley Park. That heinous and surely premeditated crime got a sentence of 6 years for the murderer who was not a juvenile. Seven years is a long time and thefervour with which people are attacking the sentence reduction is a sad comment on the state of compassion.

Budd Campbell said...

"consider the murder of the Aaron, the gay man, in Stanley Park. That heinous and surely premeditated crime got a sentence of 6 years for the murderer who was not a juvenile.

That too was a travesty!

I was assured by one lawyer in the prosecution bureau that eventually we would be hearing more about this case, but so far nothing has come out. The Crown dropped the ball so badly in the Webster case that some of the younger murderers got terms of under two years if memory serves. The violent group who committed this crime got together, armed themselves with clubs and bats, went hunting for a victim, and then beat Webster to death. Clearly, this was premeditated, first degree murder, nothing less. What came out the other end of the justice sausage factory in that case was truly incredible.

I have no problem with taking into account a disadvantaged background or Aboriginal origins in the case of youths who have been shoplifting or vandalizing or even those who may have committed minor assaults. But when the case is a homicide, I think it's totally inappropriate to take account of these factors. Sentencing should be based on major societal needs, to deter, to punish satisfactorily, and to rehabilitate.

In the matter of rehabilitation, I certainly do not buy into the perfectly silly notion that rehabilitation of young people always argues for lesser time. On the contrary, where one is dealing with a 15 or 16 year old who is so badly off course in their development and maturation that they have become involved in a killing of some kind, surely ordinary common sense dictates that a reasonably long period of custody will be required in order for the professionals in social work and psychology to be able to treat this person successfully.

One final note. Of the three Appeal Court judges who ruled in this case, two were Chretien era appointees, but one was appointed last June under Harper. So much for Tory law and order!

Anonymous said...

Seriously Flipper?you dont know how a 16 year old that dragged someone to their death can be called a criminal?What would you call him? A brat or a poor misunderstood speshul snowflake?Lock these violent kiddie psychopaths up and lose the key.If anyone thinks someone that committed a crime this horrific could be rehabilitated,you are delusional.Maybe he can be toned down from dragging someone to death to just rape or animal torture.Good times.I cannot imagine the pain the victims family must suffer knowing this freak is running loose and I hope the public makes sure he has a difficult time enjoying his life.