PAJ Issue 3 NA


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Page 39 of 49

"He's coming at me." Those would be the last words Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell would ever speak. Moments later, a snowplow would run over the police officer, killing him instantly. Witnesses had earlier called 911 to alert police that a "crazy" person was driving a snowplow and hitting parked cars. That "crazy" person was 45-year-old Richard Kachkar, who had stolen the snowplow earlier that morning. Despite the freezing weather, he had no jacket and his feet were bare. After he killed Russell, Kachkar kept on driving. When he was confronted by police, they tased him but that would not stop him. They finally had to shoot him. Kachkar was charged with first-degree murder, as is always case when a police officer is killed in the line of duty. There was no question that Kachkar drove the snowplow that hit and killed Sergeant Russell. The only question was whether he knew what he was doing at the time. A jury found Kachkar not guilty by reason of mental disorder which meant that he committed the crime, but was mentally ill at the time to the point that he could not be held criminally responsible for his actions. For taking the life of a courageous police officer, a devoted father and loving husband, there would be no punishment, no criminal record and no prison bars. Kachkar was a patient, not a criminal. The reaction to the verdict was swift and predictable. Russell's wife, Christine, said her husband deserved better. The policing community expressed its collective outrage. Hockey commentator Don Cherry tweeted that Kachkar was going "free," because of a left-wing judge. Then-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford went on the radio to express his disbelief. Christine Russell was right: the 11-year police veteran deserved better than to die in the middle of a Toronto street in the freezing cold, run down by a snowplow. But she was reacting to the verdict – that her husband's killer had gotten off and her husband deserved better. While her grief, anger and resentment are understandable, the verdict had nothing to do with her husband, the life he led or the way he died. The issue was whether Richard Kachkar had a mental disorder that made it impossible for him to understand what he was doing, or appreciate the consequences. A jury of his peers, not a left-wing judge like Don Cherry would charge, said he did not. Even one of the Crown's own witnesses ended up agreeing with the defence. And the law says if you cannot appreciate what you have done because of a mental disorder, you cannot be held criminally responsible for it and you cannot be punished for it. Even if "it" is the murder of a police officer. Kachkar did not go to prison, but he did also not "go free" as Don Cherry suggested. He was sent to a mental health facility and will stay there until a review board, based on advice from experts who work with Kachkar, decide he is no longer a danger to the public. It could be for a few years or it could be for the rest of his life. In the midst of the case, the Harper Government introduced changes to the NCR provisions of the Criminal Code. Although they had quietly been talking about doing something with respect to NCR provisions since 2006, the release of notorious child killer Guy Turcotte and the national headlines that followed opened the door. The murder of two children, by their father, shocked the country. People were stunned when a jury found their father, 39-year-old cardiologist Guy Turcotte, not criminally responsible for brutally stabbing his children, aged 3 and 5, to death. Eighteen months later, he was released into the community. Turcotte, meanwhile, is awaiting a new trial after the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the verdict in 2014. 36 w w w . p o l i c e a d v o c a t e s j o u r n a l . c o m BY STEVE SULLIVAN THE POLITICS OF NOT BEING CRIMINALLY RESPONSIBLE The 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' approach has a vengeful nature and points the finger in the wrong direction

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