Where do people sign up for their public popularity card?
Apparently that newfangled document maps out a person’s stature in the community.
It’s important to know how to get one, because membership has its privileges.
Or it could.
Exactly what the benefits are haven’t been worked out yet, but some are trying to pin them down.
For example, if you’re popular enough and are hurt in a crime you might provoke a longer jail sentence for your assailant.
That seems to be a legal precedent Crown prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick is trying to nail down.
This week, she petitioned the Yukon Supreme Court to reconsider a penalty handed mechanic Martin Biondelli.
The Crown prosecuted Biondelli for careless driving after the overloaded trailer he was hauling crashed into an oncoming minivan, killing the well-loved local artist and community volunteer Dereen Hildebrand.
Biondelli was found guilty by a visiting BC judge. He was sentenced to six months probation and a $1,000 fine. He also had his driving privileges curtailed.
Fast forward a few months and we find the Crown appealing the decision. Now it wants Biondelli jailed.
The appeal is disturbing for a couple of reasons.
First, it hinges on Hildebrand’s status in the community.
Or, in lawyer speak, the loss of a single person is significant in a small community, suggested Kirkpatrick.
It is a disingenuously bland remark.
Clearly, the Crown is logging extra time on this case because of Hildebrand’s contribution to the community.
Through her art and generous donations of time and energy, Hildebrand made a tremendous contribution to this place. That can’t be challenged.
But should her widespread and well-earned popularity alter the punishment handed another man in open court?
It makes one wonder if the Crown would pursue the case if it involved a derelict?
Would such loss be considered significant to the community, and would it warrant an appeal by the federal Crown?
Just last year, a Mountie was found guilty of careless driving after he rolled his cruiser, killing a Carcross woman he had in custody.
The woman was not wearing a seat belt, the officer was driving faster than the posted speed limit and was tired after a long shift.
Like Biondelli, the officer was fined $1,000, but the Crown did not ask that his licence be revoked or that he serve jail time.
The sentence must not be considered a weight on the value of the woman’s life, said the Crown at the time.
Has that principle now changed?
Is the Crown pondering an appeal of the police officer’s sentence as well? And if not, why?
These are troubling questions indeed.
Kirkpatrick suggests visiting BC judge Dennis Overend didn’t understand the impact Hildebrand’s death would have on the community. Or, in lawyer speak, the Yukon Supreme Court “is better placed to assess the impact.”
Why? Is it not the Crown’s responsibility to make Overend understand the impact during in the initial case?
And why is Kirkpatrick trying to finagle a tougher sentence for Biondelli — a first-time offender — than the careless driving conviction normally carries?
Why, for that matter, did the Crown not try to prosecute Biondelli for the more serious charge of dangerous driving in the first place?
No, the whole appeal smacks of two-tier justice.
And that’s no justice at all. (RM)