Sunday, June 6, 2010
"Fullest extent of the law not tough enough in Cooper case" -- I disagree!
Perhaps the only thing as shocking as the tragic details of Audrey Cooper’s death is the maximum penalty courts were able to give her convicted killers.
Cooper was killed in October 2006, when four youths allegedly carried out a horrific and random attack outside her Spence Street home.
Court heard Cooper was so badly beaten that her face was disfigured.
She suffered more than 60 different injuries, including broken ribs and a punctured liver.
A now 18-year-old man is on trial for second-degree murder in the killing.
Two girls, who were 14 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. A girl who was 12 at the time pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
If an adult was convicted of such a horrific murder, he or she would be forced to serve a mandatory life sentence in jail. At least 10 years of that sentence would be served with no chance of parole.
But being a few years shy of one’s 18th birthday typically means doing much less time.
The two teens who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Cooper’s death received a maximum youth sentence of just seven years in custody and community supervision.
After serving 3.5 years in pre-trial time, this means the girls will only remain in custody until August, then be freed to serve the rest of their sentences in the community.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act also dictates these young offenders can serve no more than four years of their sentences in custody, with the remainder in the community.
The girl who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Cooper’s death got a maximum youth sentence of three years of custody and community supervision and must live in a group home until she’s 18.
The only glimmer of hope in this story is that justice officials punished all of these girls to the fullest extent of the current youth law.
That’s why the law itself needs to change.
It should be noted that adult penalties are possible for serious youth crimes but aren‘t often used.
The two girls charged with murdering Cooper, for example, avoided the risk of adult punishment by pleading guilty.
The Harper government wants to force courts to consider adult sentences for all youths 14 or older convicted of serious offences, such as murder and aggravated assault, making it possible for lengthy or even life sentences to be applied.
Bill C-4 would also demand that courts consider allowing the names of the most serious young offenders to be published, removing the veil of anonymity they’re granted under current law.
Last week critics attacked the proposed changes claiming they would violate the privacy rights of children.
But this risk doesn’t justify any more delay in implementing these reforms, which the federal Conservatives have attempted to put in place since 2008.
It’s high time we prized public safety over the privacy of a criminal, no matter what his or her age.
Young teenagers know the difference between life and death. They also know that brutally beating another person is a serious and inexcusable crime.
If we continue to let young offenders serve sentences that fall far short of reflecting the heinous nature of their crimes, wayward youths will continue to feel, and to some extent be, invincible to the penalties meant to keep them in line.
A few years in custody is not enough to make up for the loss of a life.
If a teenager violently ends a life, it should at least be possible to punish them with a sentence that matches the crime.
I completely disagree with changing the YCJA. It`s goals currently, are rehabilitation and successful reintegration and we need to keep those as goals for youth. Locking them up in prison is an emotional response to the crime and is only a quick fix. It is not a long term solution and fails to address the underlying causes and contributing factors to the crime. Punishments should not be proportionate to the crimes. A sentence needs to take into consideration, the mitigating and aggravating factors of an offender and the sentence must sufficiently meet the needs of the offender, in terms of rehabilitation and reintegration. If we simply lock these teens up, with no rehabilitation and release them with little assistance, they will likely resort back to crime. In prison, there are negative influences, drugs, gangs. pro criminal attitudes and behaviours and is a general, negative environment. Teens will likely become more hardened criminals and more involved in the criminal lifestyle. They will be negatively impacted by prison. Prison should only be used as a last resort and only to protect the public from an individual who legitimately poses a risk to public safety. Those with mental illnesses, of aboriginal descent, drug or property offenders, should not be imprisoned unless it is needed, as the environment will have a more negative impact on them. Prison does not accomplish deterrence, prevention or reduction of crime.