In August of 2017, Chance Macdonald, age 22, was sentenced to 88 days of jail to be served on weekends as well as probation for two years. He was originally charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in April 2017 but pleaded guilty to common assault.
The defence lawyer for Macdonald argued that a criminal record would be detrimental to his summer internship that was required to finish his degree. The Crown argued that allowing Macdonald to finish off an internship rather than start his sentence directly after being handed out would prolong the traumatic experience for the survivor; however, Justice Allan Letourneau agreed with the defence and did not lay down a sentence until the end of August, deliberately allowing Macdonald to complete his internship.
This case is an example of the perpetrator’s future coming before the survivor’s well-being, which mirrors the Brock Turner case. During the trial, Justice Letourneau made comments commending Macdonald’s “excellence in employment, in athletics, and in academics.” He empathized with the perpetrator, making connections between his own university experience and Macdonald’s.
The court system has a history of dealing with cases long after charges have been laid, and while that is an issue that needs to be addressed, it was not the court’s overflowing case load at fault in this situation. The judge made the decision to not hand down a sentence until the end of August, choosing to consider the perpetrator’s standing and future prospects over the justice that was deserved for the survivor.
We want to believe that the justice system is there to ensure that there are repercussions dealt out to perpetrators of crimes. We hear stories about how, when a sentence is given, the survivors (or their families) feel a sense of closure, but in this case, that closure was held off for reasons that are unfair in the grand scheme. Macdonald got to complete his internship despite being found guilty of sexual assault. Repercussions for him were not immediate, and while the judge claimed that this was a “fork in the road” for Macdonald, that he truly believed Macdonald would not commit sexual assault again, how can that be certain when Macdonald benefitted? Sure, he gets a handful of months of jail time, but does that negate the fact that he got to continue on with his daily life for months when he should have been sentenced much earlier? When the judge specifically said he was delaying sentencing so as to not ruin Macdonald’s life?
The survivor agreed with Macdonald taking a lesser plea because she was afraid of not being believed in court and did not have to face this in a trial, and Macdonald benefits from a system that is seen as a ‘boys club’ now more than ever. In the place where a survivor’s voice is meant to be heard and believed, the perpetrator’s situation was taken into account more than the implications that this would set for the survivor. Her attacker was allowed back into society and justice was ultimately put on the backburner. No one can blame a victim for not wanting to go through a lengthy trial or risk of a jury, but it seems as though any option that is offered doesn’t serve the sort of justice that it was created to.
The system is there to ensure that justice is served and consequences are handed out. But when will it and those involved stop valuing perpetrators’ futures over the lives of their victims?