No jail, no fine for senior who poisoned trees
A Vancouver interior designer has been given an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to poisoning five trees on city land in front of her condo on English Bay.
June Matheson was charged with mischief in 2004 after it was discovered someone had drilled holes in the trees and poisoned them with a herbicide – killing three of them.
The 72-year-old lived on the third floor at 2015 Beach Avenue – an oceanfront condo next to Stanley Park – and the trees were blocking her view of the water.
A written statement by the Crown says Matheson and a friend went to Washington state to buy a herbicide not readily available in Canada and used it to kill the offending trees.
Last month, she paid the Vancouver Park Board nearly $50,000 to plant trees of similar size along English Bay next month, and to replace other trees in Stanley Park.
Matheson is a well-known Vancouver designer, who has worked for pop stars Sarah McLachlan and Bif Naked.
Woman has suffered enough, says lawyer
The Crown said that in light of Matheson's age and previous good character, it was not seeking a jail sentence. Instead, the prosecutor recommended a nominal fine.
But the elderly woman's lawyer asked for a complete discharge, saying she suffered immense public humiliation in the aftermath of the poisonings.
Holes in one of the poisoned trees
"I think that's going too far. I think many people would agree with that.That's just over the line.That is a series of criminal offences, even in and of itself," he said.
He told the court that his client was forced to sell the condo where she had lived for 20 years – and her interior design business – to escape the public backlash.
Donaldson calls what happened a "complete incineration of a lifetime of achievement" and says what she did an "amateur act of an elderly woman who got an idea in her head."
He also argued that Matheson's experience has provided all the public deterrence needed to prevent other people from poisoning trees.
Provincial court judge Ellen Gordon agreed, and gave Matheson a complete discharge, which means she won't have a criminal record.
The Crown could appeal, but prosecutor Ralph Keefer says he's satisfied that "justice was served."
Vancouver Park Board chair Heather Holden ays she's satisfied as well, noting Matheson's compensation payment of $50,000.