Drunks get harsher sentence than guy who smuggled child porn

Covering Estevan Provincial Court on July 30 had me shaking my head.

There was the usual round of impaired driving convictions – specifically, with a blood alcohol level over .08. This day, there were four of them. Three were run of the mill, and the fourth had a little flavour to it. As several had prior convictions, albeit a very long time ago, they ended up getting $1,500 fines and one year driving prohibitions.

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To that end, I basically write that story every week. Not much changes except the names and the faces.

But towards the end of the morning this docket day, something came up that shook me out of my doodling of coffee cups and my body’s withdrawal from caffeine. With Saskatchewan’s major port to the United States, North Portal, nearby, Estevan courts end up hosting some customs cases.

This one seemed ordinary enough, until the prosecutor started describing what was found on two electronic devises – a cell phone and a USB memory stick, during a secondary search. Then the prosecutor went into graphic detail of three videos that were found on these devices.

I’ve heard a lot in court over the years. I have never heard that. The first two involved graphic sex acts between two boys around the age of five or six. The third involved a child around 12 or 13 involved in bestiality. The defence attorney noted that there was “political commentary” audio denouncing these acts. He called them “known propaganda videos.”

What the hell sort of propaganda is that?

The defence attorney also said the videos were sent to his client, but he had failed to delete them.

There was a joint submission on these charges – smuggling prohibited items, i.e. obscene material. That’s Canadian legalese for what you would call a plea bargain on American court TV shows. The sentence was forfeiture of the cellphone and memory stick, and a fine of $1,500.

It just so happened I had taken along Brady Bateman, our new reporter with the Mercury. On the way back to the office, he noted the fines were the same. He also questioned how these items could have ended up on the memory stick. That’s an incredibly astute realization, one that I hadn’t come up with on my own. Phones have inboxes, and you can’t control what people send you. Fair enough. But how does this material end up on a thumb drive unless it was purposefully put there? And since it was forfeited, at least one of the videos found its way onto the thumb drive.

When you take the drunk driving cases and the child porn case together, you realize that the drunks (some of whom were barely over the limit, at .10 or .13) got a much harsher sentence than the guy with kiddie porn on this thumb drive. One year without the ability to drive, especially if you live out of town, becomes an enormous hindrance. It’s not just the ability to get groceries or take your kids to the rink. It’s the ability to get to work, period, so you can buy those groceries. Sure, there are programs to shorten that driving prohibition, but they only shorten it, not eliminate it.

The guy who was convicted in the smuggling case was a truck driver for the last 20 years, and specialized in long-haul. I don’t know what the border implications are for a Customs Act offence, but they probably aren’t good if your profession is hauling things across the border. I don’t know if they are similar to a criminal record. There’s probably a good chance he’ll lose his job hauling to and from the U.S., but that won’t preclude him from finding work within Canada. There’s usually always a job for someone willing to take the wheel.

Canada is not a “throw the book at them” nation, in the way the United States is. Our sentences across the board are substantially less than what you would get for similar offences south of 49. But look at what the U.S. has become? The nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world – one where frequently throwing away the key has solved nothing.

Still, something seems grossly wrong with a drunk getting a harsher sentence than someone who brought the most heinous child porn imaginable across the border. We might want to think on that.

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@sasktel.net.

© Copyright 2018 Estevan Mercury

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