Beyond the Headlines

Bishop Raymond Lahey

Posted: Jan 5, 2012 12:25 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 5, 2012 12:25 PM ET
A couple of observations from my time covering the court hearing for Bishop Raymond Lahey in Ottawa Wednesday.
 
First, say whatever you like about people getting off with light sentences (and we all love to bash judges, but I know I wouldn't want to be in their shoes making extremely difficult decisions that not only affect the accused, but their families and communities), but what a difference 8 months in jail has made for Raymond Lahey.
 
When I was here last May to see him plead guilty in this same courthouse, he looked healthy and robust.
He looked like a man who enjoyed all the amenities available to an esteemed Bishop.
But not Wednesday. He looked every bit his 71 years. He was frail and gaunt. His lawyer, Michael Edelson, says Lahey lost 30 pounds in jail, much of which was spent in solitary confinement.
 
Then, there was the two-for-one credit that resulted in Lahey's release from jail after serving 8 months of a 15 month sentence.
 
Let's rewind to May 4, 2011, the day Lahey pleaded guilty to possessing and importing child pornography. Through his lawyer, Lahey surprised everyone by telling the court he wanted to go to jail immediately, even though he wouldn't be formally sentenced for months.
 
This is what his lawyer, Michael Edelson said that day: "He is asking to be incarcerated this morning to signal to the court the sincerity and genuineness of his remorse."
 
But at the sentencing hearing, Edelson argued Lahey deserved a credit of two days for every day served because he had not been formally sentenced (that provision has been eliminated by the Harper government, but Lahey was charged before the legislation was proclaimed). The Crown argued against it pointing out Lahey had voluntarily agreed to go to jail early and was now trying to "manipulate" the system. The judge sided with the defence, and at approximately 1pm ET on Wednesday Raymond Lahey walked out of court a free man.
 
Crown prosecutor David Elhadad, who called the 15-month decision a deterrent to people, who like Lahey, provide a market for child pornography, politely declined to comment on the two-for-one credit.
 
So Lahey is a free man today, but with conditions. He will be on parole for two years. He had to give a DNA sample and he will be on the sex offenders registry for the next 20 years. He is to stay away from daycares, swimming pools and anywhere else children gather. And he must allow his computer(s) to be searched by police at their discretion.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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