Bud­ten­der gets some sage ad­vice from judge

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - JAC­QUIE MILLER jmiller@post­media.com twit­ter.com/Jac­quieAMiller

An Ottawa judge gave a 19-year-old clerk ar­rested for work­ing at an il­le­gal pot shop some ad­vice Friday that may spare him from a crim­i­nal record.

Jus­tice Cé­lynne Dor­val told Kevin McCh­es­ney that he might want to en­ter his guilty plea in front of an­other judge.

She wouldn’t nor­mally tell that to an ac­cused, noted Dor­val, but McCh­es­ney was rep­re­sent­ing him­self.

McCh­es­ney was ar­rested at the Can­naGreen pot shop in Or­léans in Novem­ber 2016 and charged with eight counts of drug traf­fick­ing and pos­sess­ing the prop­erty pro­ceeds of crime. McCh­es­ney told court that he can­not af­ford a lawyer and was not able to ob­tain Le­gal Aid.

If he’d had a lawyer, McCh­es­ney would have been ad­vised that only one Ottawa judge — Nor­man Box­all — has given “bud­ten­ders” plead­ing guilty con­di­tional dis­charges, said Dor­val. A con­di­tional dis­charge means the ac­cused has no crim­i­nal record.

Two other judges, in­clud­ing Dor­val her­self, have given bud­ten­ders sus­pended sen­tences, which means they have crim­i­nal records. The dif­fer­ence is sub­stan­tial, since a crim­i­nal record can in­ter­fere with a per­son’s abil­ity to find em­ploy­ment, en­ter some oc­cu­pa­tions or travel out­side Canada.

“If you had a lawyer he would tell you that I have re­fused a con­di­tional dis­charge in cir­cum­stances that are sim­i­lar to yours,” said Dor­val.

She told McCh­es­ney that he may want to plead guilty in Jus­tice Box­all’s court. “It doesn’t mean he’s go­ing to rule the same way every time, but it’s only fair for you to know that.”

She in­structed the clerk to check Box­all’s avail­abil­ity, but he was booked. In the end, McCh­es­ney was given a chance to con­sult with duty coun­sel and the mat­ter was set aside to Sept. 26.

It’s un­usual for a judge to give that kind of ad­vice to an ac­cused, but in this case it was ap­pro­pri­ate, said Ottawa crim­i­nal lawyer Michael Spratt. The court must en­sure the process is fair when peo­ple rep­re­sent them­selves, he said.

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