Raymond Lahey, the former Bishop of Antigonish, will hear today how much time he is to serve for his admitted possession of child pornography.
In May last year Lahey surprised the court by pleading guilty and asking to go to jail pending his sentencing hearing.
I speculated at the time that Lahey’s guilty plea was less a sign of contrition and more likely a legal tactic to gain advantage during his sentencing. Courts in Canada have typically granted a two for one credit for time served while awaiting sentencing. Last year Canada changed the law forbidding the 2 for 1 sentencing credit. But Lahey’s lawyer successfully argued that because Lahey was charged in 2009 and the sentencing rules were not changed until 2010, he should still be entitled to the 2 for 1 credit.
So the eight months he has served so far will translate into sixteen (16) months in the eyes of the court.
Lahey’s lawyer has asked for a one year sentence, the minimum that the court can impose under federal sentencing rules. The Crown has asked for a sentence of 18 to 22 months.
So there’s a good chance that Lahey will be walking out of court a free man after his sentencing hearing this morning.
The judge has sentenced Lahey to 15 months in jail and two years probation. So with the 2 for 1 credit for time served, Lahey will be released today!
What do you think? Has justice been served? Is the sentence appropriate?
I received an email from one of my readers, Veronica that I thought should be posted because it echos what many of my readers have been saying to me:
I agree with you that “Lahey’s guilty plea was less a sign of contrition and more likely a legal tactic to gain advantage during his sentencing.” Lahey has a very shrewd lawyer who used sympathy for his client to ask the court to be lenient. He compared Lahey to Hester Prynne, in the novel The Scarlet Letter. If he had read the novel he would know how ironic his comparison is; Hester commits adultery with a minister of a church, and he allows her to be branded and humiliated while not admitting his own guilt.
Another bid for sympathy is recorded in today’s Globe and Mail:
“Mr. Edelson said Bishop Lahey has been in solitary confinement and the conditions have been dismal.
‘He’s lost about 30 pounds. He has a very severe skin condition now that he didn’t have when he went in. It’s been a very difficult period, and that’s one of the reasons there is a two-for-one credit.'”
Lahey was released today, so Edelson’s strategy worked. This could very likely set a precedent: if prison conditions are dismal and a stay in prison affects a prisoner’s health, then a prisoner who has pleaded guilty or is found guilty of committing a criminal act should not spend time in jail.
Bishop Dunn’s statement is here: http://tinyurl.com/762smbc. The article ends by saying, “The diocese will not be making any further comments on Lahey’s sentencing.” This does not surprise me.
You ask, “Has justice been served? Is the sentence appropriate?” I can’t answer the first question, but I can answer the second question:
I can’t think of a prison sentence that would satisfy me. What would satisfy me is for Bishop Dunn to issue a statement saying that the Catholic Church’s coverup of the behaviour of the clergy is responsible for the continued abuse of children and the abuse of people’s trust in an organization that advertises itself as moral and ethical.