Below are Mr. Justice Thomas A. Heeney’s comments in the sentencing of Michael Rafferty. Justice Heeney defends his decision to bar the child porn evidence against Mr. Rafferty from the trial. He later admonishes Mr. Rafferty for the pain and anguish he has caused Tori Stafford’s family.
There has been a great deal of negative media comment over the past few days relating to evidence of bad character that was excluded during this trial. Much of this criticism demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of some basic concepts upon which our criminal justice system operates. Since people tend to believe what they read, this has the potential to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. It is, therefore, important that I take a moment, at the outset of my comments on sentencing, to explain these basic concepts, and thereby correct any misapprehension that may exist.
Michael Thomas Christopher Stephen Rafferty has been found guilty by a jury of his peers on all three counts of the indictment.
He has received a fair trial. Some believe it was too fair. His trial was fully respectful of the rights that are guaranteed to him under our Charter as a citizen of this great country. Mr. Rafferty was not convicted based on his character, he was convicted based on his conduct. Character evidence is presumptively inadmissible under our law for a reason. Character evidence speaks volumes about his deviant nature, but that is more relevant to who he is, as opposed to what he did. Being a pervert does not mean that he is a murderer.
The law in this country has long recognized that admitting evidence of this kind has enormous potential to lead a jury to conclude that a person is guilty of the crime, even if the evidence proving that person’s actual involvement is lacking. Such is the power of character evidence. It can, and has in the past, lead to wrongful convictions.
Instead, the jury in this case convicted the accused solely on the basis of solid, admissible and overwhelming evidence that was directly relevant to the heinous deeds committed by Rafferty and his partner in evil on April 8, 2009. There can be no doubt that the jury got it right.
The character evidence in question was not only presumptively inadmissible, it was obtained through an admitted breach of the Charter rights of the accused. There are some commentators, and many or perhaps most members of the public, who think that he should have been denied the protections that the Charter has to offer. But we are privileged to live in a country that so values the personal freedom of all its citizens that we have entrenched in our law the principal that everyone accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent, until his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Unless we are prepared to admit that we need only pay lip service to this great principal, what justification could there be for denying the rights of an innocent man?
But with the verdict of the jury, that presumption of innocence has been stripped away, revealing who he really is: a child abductor; a child rapist; and a child murderer.
Mr. Rafferty, please stand up.
Your crimes have destroyed the lives of Victoria Stafford’s parents, her brother, her extended family and her loved ones. They have terrorized an entire community, who had thought its children could safely walk its streets, little knowing that people such as you lurked among them. That you were brought to justice is due entirely to the most massive and extraordinary mobilization of police resources that this province, and probably this country, has ever seen. Hundreds of officers, and many civilian volunteers, dedicated themselves to the daunting task of bringing Tori home, and hunting down her killers. Through their skill and determination, they managed to do both, and for that we are all grateful.
But most tragically of all, you have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl, a “tomboy diva” in the trustful innocence of childhood. And for what? So that you could gratify your twisted and devious desire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an act of such pure evil. You, sir, are a monster.
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