Sentencing circle justice well served

There is a natural tendency on the part of many to look sceptically at anything that smacks of unfairness. As citizens, we want everyone in society more or less treated the same, something that becomes especially apparent when it comes to the justice system. Nothing riles people more than when it seems someone gets preferential treatment.

With that in mind, it is understandable some were critical in advance of a sentencing circle held last Thursday in the Tk'emlups Indian Band's gymnasium. They thought it possible Douglas Jensen, a band member who was convicted of several offences including dangerous driving and assaulting a police officer, would escape the full force of justice and instead be handed a softer penalty by a panel of his peers.

That didn't happen. In fact, Jensen will be held to a higher degree of accountability for his crimes than if he had been sentenced in a B.C. Supreme Courtroom in the Kamloops courthouse.

To begin with, Jensen had already served his jail sentence. He had been in jail for 19 months since his arrest, and the Crown agreed with the defence that such a term was sufficient in this instance, considering the crimes and the man's background. No special treatment there.

The sentencing circle's purpose, in essence, was to provide input to the judge as he decided the length and terms of the man's subsequent probation order.

It proved to be a powerful, worthwhile exercise. Chief Shane Gottfriedson spoke directly to Jensen and in a way only a community leader can, conveyed to the man the seriousness of his past acts, and what he needs to do in order to reclaim a place in the TIB community.

Jensen appeared contrite and apologized for what he had done. Of course, there is nothing unusual in a criminal saying sorry to a sentencing judge, but hearing Jensen apologize to the very people he offended against was a different kind of act.

Jensen was handed 22 months of probation, with a requirement (which he entered voluntarily) he abide by a four-year "social contract" with the TIB designed to ensure he gets the counseling he needs. Such a requirement exceeds greatly what he would have been handed in a typical court proceeding.

Jensen did not get "preferential" treatment by being allowed to face an aspect of his sentencing in front of his community. As Crown prosecutor Iain Currie noted, he received only "different" treatment.

And in the end, the TIB-aided probation order will likely go much further to set the man on "the red road," one that will see him reconnect with his family, heritage and possibly a new future.

Justice well served.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News

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