The recent case of a Penticton sex offender who tried to plead guilty to first-degree murder but was refused by the judge might make some raise their eyebrows in disbelief.
Why would we not want to allow a self-admitted killer to accept personal responsibility for his crime and be sentenced for it?
That's exactly what seemed to happen when Kamloops B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Powers refused to accept a guilty plea from Roger Badour, a 64-year-old man who admitted he shot his victim, a woman, twice and left her for dead.
The Crown, initially, was prepared to accept the man's guilty plea. As the hearing proceeded, however, Badour blurted out he just wanted to get the matter done because he had cancer and wanted to get into the federal prison system to get better treatment. Badour has been held since his arrest in the provincial jail system.
That statement brought Badour's hearing to a halt, as both the Crown and the judge expressed concern about the possibility Badour was pleading guilty for the wrong reasons. The next day, when the hearing resumed, the judge went further and said Badour's admissions did not seem to support the legal test to be considered first-degree murder. With that, the man's hearing was postponed to give him a chance to get better legal advice than it seems he had been provided to that moment.
The decision no doubt caused Badour despair -he clearly is concerned for his health - but his emotional health is the not the court's concern.The court is more properly concerned, however, that Badour be convicted of an offence he committed. In this instance - if his utterances stand legal scrutiny - his case sounds more like second-degree murder than first. The distinction between the two will change the way he is sentenced; first-degree murder prohibits parole until 25 years have passed while the lesser form allows the court to reduce parole ineligibility to a period between 10 and 25 years.
It might seem an unimportant difference but it's not. It's critical our system of justice do everything it can to ensure citizens are convicted of the crimes they commit - no more nor less - for the right reasons. To do less opens the system to the possibility of legal errors that bear potential to see people wrongfully convicted, a price too great to accept.
© Kamloops Daily News