Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Archive for January 2009

The making of a saint

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I wonder when the Vancouver Sun will finish its canonization of Ivan Henry, the rapist jailed in the early 80’s after a series of terrifying rapes in Vancouver. 

Since Lenny Doust, the elder statesman of BC barristers, reviewed the case and said there were some procedural issues at trial which should be reviewed on appeal, the Vancouver Sun in particular and the mainstream media with the sole exception of Global BC, has endeavored to elevate this guy into another victim saint along with Donald Marshall, Stephen Truscott and, dare I say, Maher Arar. 

Now we need to understand a few things about this case.  The Vancouver Sun has tried to paint a case against the Vancouver Police as is their wont, by portraying the image of Henry in a police line-up, being obviously there against his will, as though this was the evidence used to convict him. 

It wasn’t and not by a long shot.  

In fact, the VPD detectives handling the serial rape case knew that Henry had queered the lineup process by his resistance.  And let’s not lose sight of that little detail: it was the actions of Henry himself who made the lineup inadmissible with his physical resistance forcing the VPD to drag him into the lineup room. 

So, they then put together a photo lineup and got their prosecutable identifications in that manner.  Additionally, in court all the victims that testified and at least two that were not called to testify pointedly, directly and without ambiguity, identified Henry as their attacker. 

Henry knew the system inside and out.  He has more convictions and run-ins with the police than Carter has little liver pills.  He deliberately declined counsel and chose to defend himself against all advice from the Crown and the Bench. Yet, he went forward. 

That he was convicted should surprise no one.  That his appeals went nowhere also should surprise no one.  That one lawyer, albeit a senior and talented one, should examine the file and determine there were some procedural issues which may (highlight the word ‘may’) taint the conviction is a far cry from screaming injustice and innocent man jailed as the Vancouver Sun has suggested. 

Ivan Henry is a scumbag who was declared a Dangerous Offender by the courts and, as a result, has spent over 25 years in prison.  That is as it should be.  That he is being given the attention he has by the Vancouver Sun and painted as a victim is wrong at so many levels.  He was not declared a DO because of this conviction, rather it was because of a lifetime of crime which culminated with a conviction as a serial rapist.

As an example, Henry writes in his excuse-filled “Woe is me” statement, that he was forced into the lineup even though he wasn’t charged with anything and the lemmings at the Sun breathlessly report his words as though something horrible was done by the VPD. 

The police do physical lineups as part of the investigative process in the hope that they may develop further evidence establishing they have the right suspect before a charge is laid. Any suggestion that the police did something wrong and Henry was hard done by because the VPD forced him into a lineup before he was charged is nothing more than a red herring.  Henry orchestrated that deliberately to nullify the effect of a lineup.  The only reason to do that was to try and create a possible avenue for appeal because he was – and remains – absolutely guilty. 

And we know that because a jury said so, a number of victims said so in a courtroom as well, at least two rape victims said so who were not called to testify.  And not only that, but his wife, who he uses as an alibi in his statement trumpeted by the Sun, later gave police a statement of her own saying that everything he said was a lie.

In a conversation with one of the investigators, he said, “If this guy gets out and there is any justice, he’d move next door to [the columnist in the Sun.]  And I would happily pay his first month’s rent.”

Spin in the media is effective.  It can result in an innocent man being pilloried for no good reason.  It can also result in a guilty man going free.  Doust’s report is what it is and the system will have another look at the case. But, there is a wide chasm between procedural issues and innocence.

The Vancouver Sun should be more careful in who they are proposing for sainthood.

Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

January 20, 2009 at 2:00 am

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Holidaaaaaaaze . . . .

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Well, the weather outside was indeed frightful, no matter in which part of the Deranged Dominion you reside.  I had the distinct pleasure of spending an unscheduled three days in Edmonton in a particularly sub-arctic chill after our plane wasn’t allowed to land at a snow-bound Vancouver airport, uncharacteristically up to its knees in the white stuff.

And, I must admit, I certainly did not understand the efforts of the Vancouver media to pillory Air Canada because of the weather.  The talk shows and the newspapers were filled to excess with examples of how people couldn’t get home or wherever, and somehow it was Air Canada’s fault and Westjet, which handles a fraction of traffic that Air Canada does, was somehow beyond reproach. 

In the space of four days, major airports Pearson, Halifax Stanfield, YVR then Pearson again then YVR again, got blasted with snowstorms so severe that Environment Canada called the phenomena “Storm-a-geddon.”

And somehow that was Air Canada’s fault?  Flights were delayed all over North America over the Christmas period.  But the media seemed to focus on Air Canada.  One has to wonder at the critical thinking abilities of the mainstream media.  Are they so focused on whatever their political agenda is that they are unable to ask critical questions?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Despite the several days warning preceding the extreme weather, officials at YVR didn’t see the necessity to bring in extra de-icing fluid.  No, really, I’m not kidding.  Flights were delayed at YVR because the airport ran out of de-icing fluid and airlines had to wait for de-icing fluid to be trucked in from Calgary.  But the mainstream media and the talk show hosts seemed incapable of discovering that salient fact.

I’m no apologist for Air Canada, God knows they have their challenges, but the criticism they got for the weather delays across the country and most especially in Vancouver was grossly unfair bordering on libel. 

And I guess that the media unfairness is what lies at the heart of this rant. 

When I was first hired at the Montreal Star in the early ’70s, I was taught by then City Editor, John Yorston, the concepts of objectivity in reporting and above all, checking sources and questioning everything.  I see little of that anymore in the mainstream media. 

Take, for example, a Toronto Star piece published to ring in the New Year.  Toronto police Chief Bill Blair was quoted in a story talking about how the murder rate has dropped in that city: “We live in one of the safest metropolitan cities in the world.  So, it’s bland, it’s boring here. Boring is good.”

This, from the police chief of the city that had a gang shootout on Boxing Day a couple of years back that took the life of a beautiful, 15 year old girl out shopping with friends.  The Jane/Finch area of the city is a virtual “No Go” area for everyone including the police.  Crack cocaine and methamphetamine is the currency and guns and bullets are the calling cards.

The city was so “boring” that only a few hours after midnight on New Year’s Eve, shots rang out in several parts of the “boring” city.  By dawn there were three gunshot victims in area hospitals from separate incidents.  And those are only the ones that I know about.

Blair is obviously trying to spin some good news into a public relations win for a police department beleaguered by scandal in recent years.  I get that and I get that he would want to do that.  But please, neither he nor the Toronto Star should insult the intelligence of the public.

Drugs, guns and shootings are a part of all our major cities in Canada in this day and age and any attempt to minimize that is irresponsible on the part of our police leaders or politicians.  The swallowing of the irresponsible spin by the mainstream media is an abdication of their responsibility in what I used to believe was a proud calling.

Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

January 4, 2009 at 12:03 am

Posted in Crime & Punishment