Justice takes a back seat in the case of Toronto grocer

This story is wrong on so many levels.

Charges against the Chinatown grocer who tackled, bound and held a man stealing from his store still stand – and Wang (David) Chen won’t find out for another two weeks whether the prosecution will drop the most serious of four criminal offences he’s facing.

“I’m disappointed,” Mr. Chen said in court at Old City Hall Thursday. “The charges should have been withdrawn.”

Mr. Chen and two of his employees are facing charges of assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement and concealment of a weapon after they apprehended a man who had stolen from Mr. Chen’s Lucky Moose market earlier the same day.

Anthony Bennett pleaded guilty to two charges of theft in August – one in relation to Mr. Chen’s store, and another for stealing from a plant shop on King Street West. He got a lighter sentence for agreeing to testify as a Crown witness in the case against Mr. Chen, the store owner who caught him.

Lorne Gunter in his National Post column sums it up neatly.

Crown prosecutors always signal who they want most by making deals with the other accused in a case for their testimony against the most-desired target. Mr. Bennett, who has a criminal record for drugs and theft going back 33 years, got a lighter sentence (30 days, plus 15 days time served) in return for acting as a government witness against Mr. Chen. Prosecutors cannot see the distortion of justice inherent in letting go a habitual criminal — a man who for years has harassed and stolen from shopkeepers in Mr. Chen’s Toronto neighbourhood — just so they can win a conviction against a law-abiding citizen who grew tired of police and court inaction and decided to exercise his ancient rights to self-defence and citizen’s arrest.

The message this sends is that the Crown is more determined to discourage citizens from getting involved in local justice than it is in stopping thefts. It is more interested in the rights of criminals than the safety of ordinary Canadians and their property.

Something is significantly wrong with our justice system when a known thief is allowed to plea bargain for a lesser sentence by testifying against the man that he robbed.

When I first read about the case I figured that Mr. Chen was in trouble because he didn’t apprehend the culprit in the act of stealing his property but actually caught him some time later, as explained here.

Under the Criminal Code, a person must find someone in the act of committing a crime for a citizen’s arrest to be legal.

If the kidnapping charge is not withdrawn the case will be argued in front of a jury and a Constitutional challenge will be launched, Lindsay said.

“Arguably, under our current citizen’s arrest, you can’t arrest (the shoplifter) because he’s not actually committing a crime, even though you have excellent evidence that an hour earlier he committed a crime, including store surveillance video that shows the whole thing,” he said.

The same article also details the plea bargain details.

Bennett pleaded guilty to two counts of theft in August. The Crown wanted a 90-day sentence but offered him 30 days because he agreed to testify against Chen. With time served, he was out after 10 days.

The actions by the prosecutor are reprehensible, but it certainly sends a signal that you are at the mercy of the bad guys because if you try to defend your property you’ll get the book thrown at you while the perpetrator will get off with a slap on the wrist,

Isn’t it time that we put justice back into the justice system?


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2 Responses to “Justice takes a back seat in the case of Toronto grocer”

  1. bluntobject Says:

    This is utterly despicable behaviour on the part of the Crown. Kidnapping? Forcible confinement? It’s horrifying.

  2. H Wheeler Says:

    It’s time our judges and prosecutors are elected and required to represent the law abiding public. If they fail to do so, then they would be held accountable by not being reelected.

    I personally offer my apologies to Mr. Chen for the actions of the seemly “bumbling bureaucratic buffoons” that are in charge of our legal system.

    Our justice system requires a complete overhaul!

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