An interior designer who admitted to poisoning trees on the edge of Stanley Park to improve her view will avoid a criminal record after her lawyer argued the "coast to coast humiliation" she has suffered is punishment enough.
"The public has denounced her conduct much more than the court could," Judge Ellen Gordon said in handing June Matheson, 72, an absolute discharge after she pleaded guilty Thursday to killing the trees so she could get a better view of English Bay.
"The public outcry in this case had a remarkable denunciatory effect."
Crown attorney Ralph Keefer told the provincial court judge that Matheson's act was "selfish in the extreme" and carefully planned, and for that she should at least be fined on the mischief charge she faced.
Ms. Matheson admitted to poisoning a stand of trees in front of her expensive, third-floor condominium, which were blocking her scenic view near Stanley Park, a large and well-known piece of parkland in the city.
In the spring of 2004, staff from Vancouver's park board found holes drilled in the base of five trees, including a maple, chestnut, oak and two London planes.
Three of the trees have since died.
Outside court, Ms. Matheson's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, read from a letter of apology that his client had wrote to the court.
"At the time I did this, I thought only selfishly about my view and the thousands of dollars spent on waterfront taxes to enjoy the beautiful ocean," he read. "What I now realize is how wrong it was to take away something that wasn't mine to take. For that I apologize."
Mr. Keefer told Judge Gordon that Ms. Matheson went to Bellingham, Wash., to purchase a brand of poison she found on the Internet because the herbicide wasn't available in Canada. He said she transferred the poison into a plain container to avoid any problems as she crossed back into Canada.
"Not only did she plan this well in advance," Mr. Keefer argued, "she ought to have known the outrage to follow."
Mr. Keefer said given Ms. Matheson's age and lack of criminal record, a jail term wasn't necessary. He instead asked for a fine of up to $5,000.
Mr. Donaldson, told the judge that Ms. Matheson has already been punished by the public and the media for her actions.
Mr. Donaldson told the court Ms. Matheson had to sell her home shortly after being charged, because people were throwing rocks, eggs and even bags they used to clean up after their dogs at her apartment balcony.
"My 70-something client is now the object, truly, of feces and abuse," he said.
The condo she had lived in for more than two decades sold within five days going on the market for $1.695 million in October 2004.
The Crown said there was no evidence that the value of the property was enhanced by Ms. Matheson's actions.
"The resulting attention and harassment forced her to sell the two things she loved most, her apartment and her business," said Judge Gordon. "Ms. Ms. Matheson has demonstrated genuine contrition for her involvement."
Ms. Matheson has already written two cheques to the Vancouver Parks Board, one covering the almost $30,000 cost of replacing the trees and the other as a $20,000 donation.
"She has done everything in her power to make full and complete restitution," her lawyer said. "Nothing has been left out."
Mr. Donaldson admitted there was planning to Ms. Matheson's actions, but he called it clumsy and amateurish.
"There are many other ways a person with a true criminal mind could have accomplished this."
Mr. Donaldson said his client suffered from the ugly mood of the public over the incident.
"This woman went from being a pillar of the community to a pariah, just like that," he said.
In her letter, Ms. Matheson said she has paid a "harsh" price.
"I had to sell my home that I love because of endless harassment. I now have a home with no view. My health has been affected and I've had death threats made against me."