Posts Tagged ‘Toronto grocer charged’

Justice takes a back seat in the case of Toronto grocer

October 24, 2009

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 “The charges should have been withdrawn.”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?



The risks of citizen’s arrest

August 6, 2009

My initial reaction on reading this story was one of indignation that he was charged by the police.

A looming court case has changed the way David Chen runs his Chinatown grocery store. The 35-year-old has stopped displaying plants and small items on the side street beside his Dundas St. W. market – once an easy target for shoplifters.


The charges stem from an incident in late May when a man allegedly stole a box of tree plants from Chen’s store. When the suspected thief returned to the shop, Chen and two of his employees chased him down, bound his hands and feet, put him in a delivery truck and contacted police.

But on sober second thought………

Unfortunately, Chen probably doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on, and although there is obviously sympathy for his predicament all he can hope for is a judge who will recognize his good intentions and be lenient in his judgment.

I need to begin the preamble with the obvious statement that I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. However, my take on it is that if Mr. Chen had caught the thief in the act of stealing his property and detained him at that time he would be in a much more defensible position.

Unfortunately for Mr. Chen the guy that he and his employees ran down and tied up had not been charged with any crime except in Mr. Chen’s mind. He may have been the thief and then again it could be a case of mistaken identity.

Either way, I doubt that a judge will take too kindly to a citizen taking vigilante action and even though there is public sympathy for Chen’s plight I would think that the Crown probably has no other option except to prosecute..