Bear Creek sentences will stand: appeal court
An appeal court has upheld a controversial decision to convict two teens of manslaughter instead of murder for brutally beating two elderly men in Surrey's Bear Creek Park.
The three-judge appeal court panel says B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Grist was correct when he ruled the two lacked “life experience” and did not appreciate that they were endangering the lives of their victims by hitting them in the head with a baseball bat.
Both 76-year-old Shingara Singh Thandi and 84-year-old Mewa Singh Bains died after being robbed and brutally beaten in July of 2005 by the teens.
The attackers, who were 15 and 13 at the time, were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Thandi and assault in the attack on Bains because it wasn’t clear whether Bains’ death was directly related to his injuries.
Grist found them both guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to show they intended to kill.
The Crown prosecutor's office appealed the decision, saying Grist failed to apply the "common sense inference that a person intends the natural consequences of his acts."
In writing the unanimous decision of the three judges who heard the case, Court of Appeal Justice Kenneth Smith said there was sufficient evidence to show that the teens were "immature" and lacking in judgment.
Smith said the teens were acting on the suggestion of an older boy when they staged the attacks, and one of the attackers began to cry and called his father on his cell phone within minutes of the second attack.
Jhalman Thandi, son of Shingara Singh Thandi, traveled into Vancouver to hear the verdict Tuesday.
"We were really upset and disappointed," he said.
"This sends a bad message to young people, that the punishment doesn't fit the crime."
He said the families hope the ruling is appealed.
Acting Surrey Mayor Tom Gill called the ruling "absolute rubbish."
He said it gives youth a green light to disregard the law.
"This is going to be sending the most disgusting message to our community of Surrey that people, and youth, can get away with this act of violence and with a short period of time resume their life as if nothing happened," Gill said.
Mike Farnworth, the opposition NDP critic for Public Safety and Solicitor General, called the outcome disappointing, saying it was "inconceivable" that teenagers wouldn't know that death could result from multiple blows to the head by a baseball bat.
"If it can be appealed, it should be appealed," Farnworth said.
Attorney General Wally Oppal, who ordered the appeal, said the possibility of a further challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada will be examined, but warned the chances of success are slim.
"It's always difficult to appeal something to the Supreme Court of Canada, which only takes cases if they feel they're of national importance. So, probably not."
Oppal said he's "very sympathetic" to the families involved.
- by Dan Ferguson and Kevin Diakiw