Friday, August 5, 2011

Toronto Man Charged For Defending His Home

New case raises issue of self-defence rights
David Chen, a Toronto grocer, became a celebrity when he was acquitted of charges after he tied up a repeat shoplifter in a citizen's arrest.

TORONTO — A Toronto man escorting his girlfriend to her home Sunday night discovered signs of entry to her house and, fearing for the woman's mother sleeping inside, searched for intruders. A man was found hiding, Toronto police said. An ensuing struggle left the intruder bleeding from stab wounds.

As frightening as the incident was, it is the charging of the boyfriend with aggravated assault, punishable by 14 years in prison, that makes the case stand out in a clutter of urban crime.

It is the latest flashpoint in the debate over self-defence and protection of property after a number of high-profile cases across Canada brought a clamour for clarity and change.

Defence lawyers said on Tuesday it's the sort of case that a defendant — the 28-year-old man charged with the stabbing — would want to be decided by a jury, where citizens can imagine themselves in a similar circumstance and ponder what they might do.

"You can defend your property, you can defend persons in your charge and you can defend yourself. In this case he can make an argument to all three, but he has to use proportional force," said Gordon Dykstra, a criminal defence attorney in Abbotsford, B.C.

"I think if he gets in front of a jury and he's halfway presentable, if he doesn't have a criminal record and makes a good case for what happened, a jury will acquit him."

But Toronto police suggest this might not be a perfect example for champions of self-defence rights.

"The man was charged because it is alleged the stabbing was excessive," said Const. Tony Vella. "It is alleged that he stabbed the man a number of times. He's fortunate to be alive."

Key to the case is that the multiple stab wounds were inflicted both inside the home and outside, Vella said, suggesting the occupants might have been able to close the door once he was outside and call police.

The scene of the incident was Parson Court, a pleasant street in west Toronto filled with large homes. The 32-year-old man who was stabbed was charged with break and enter.

Neither accused could be reached for comment.

Recent self-defence cases have not gone well for prosecutors.

Last month, Lawrence Manzer, of Burton, N.B., had a mistrial declared in charges stemming from a confrontation with intruders on his neighbour's property. Sloppy paperwork was cited as the reason.

The same month Kim Walker, a Yorkton, Sask., welder, was sentenced to eight years after a jury declined to find him guilty of murder for killing his daughter's boyfriend whom he deemed to be destroying his drug-addicted 16-year-old daughter. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

In May, Joseph Singleton, 46, a farmer in Taber, Alta., had his charges — for assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm, after he wounded a man who had just burgled his house with the blunt end of a hatchet — referred to an alternative measures program.

In March, prosecutors dropped gun charges against Ian Thomson, 53, of Port Colborne, Ont., who shot at three masked men caught firebombing his home while one yelled: "Are you ready to die?" The Crown said there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

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