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Posts Tagged ‘crime and punishment in canada’

“Convict’s Thrilling Escape: Leaps From Fast Train,” Toronto Globe. November 25, 1918. Page 08.

Man With Bad Record in Toronto Fools County Constable and Flees Near Shannonville – Recaptured at Napanee

John Gowans, who was on his way to Kingston penitentiary, where he was to commence a second five-year sentence for housebreaking, escaped from the custody of County Constable Frank Brown near Shannonville on Saturday morning. Gowans made his escape by obtaining permission to go to a lavatory, and then by leaping from the window of the train after he had slammed the door upon Constable Brown.

Gowans was the housebreaker who entered the house of the widow of the late Dr. Fenton, and assaulted her when she endeavored to hold him until the arrival of police. He was later arrested, and only recently completed his sentence. Judge Winchester on Wednesday sentenced Gowans to five years’ imprisonment upon convictions registered against him for housebreaking in Parkdale.

The convict was recaptured at Napanee on Saturday just before midnight.

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“[Lieutenant Governor John Graves] Simcoe’s greatest achievement as a road builder was also planned to serve military purposes, but in serving those objectives it also provided the impetus for settlement of Simcoe County. In planning to build Yonge Street, Simcoe was looking for a short cut to Georgian Bay, the jumping off point for the most western British fur trading post at Michilimackinac, where lakes Michigan and Huron meet. Such a land link between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe would then allow easy access to Georgian Bay via water and would avoid a much longer water passage on Lakes Erie and Huron. Writing to secretary of State Henry Dundas in October, 1793, Simcoe advised that ‘I have ascertained by a Route hitherto unknown but to some Indian Hunters, that there is an easy Portage between York and the Waters which fall into Lake Huron of not more than thirty miles in extent, and through a County perfectly suited for agricultural Purposes.’

By the time he wrote the letter in October, Simcoe was already on his way with a group of soldiers, surveyors and Native guides to follow the old Carrying Place Trail north from the mouth of the Humber River to Lake Simcoe (originally named Lac aux Claies by the French and renamed by Simcoe after his father, although some say after himself). This route followed the marshy areas along the Holland River and did not meet Simcoe’s expectations but on the return trip to York he found the route that his new military highway would take: south from Holland Landing, via Bond Lake and the branches of the Don River. According to military tradition, the 33-mile (53 km) road was carved through the bush in a straight line from York to Holland Landing.

Surveying and clearing started at Holland Landing early in 1794 but Simcoe had to send his work crews, his Queen’s Rangers, to Niagara in 1795 to meet the threat of an American attack, and the project was delayed. The road was completed by February of 1796, after Simcoe contracted with renowned surveyor August Jones to get it finished. He also relied on assistance from each settler along the route, who was required to clear six acres of land within a year and provide some road building labour. Simcoe also had convicted petty criminals removing tree stumps. The ‘Stump Act’ of 1800 would formalize the practice of using convicts, alcohol offenders mostly, to remove stumps on public road projects.

As was typical, as soon as it was built maintenance became an issue for the new link to the northern districts. On its completion it was a stretch to call Yonge Street a road, with many stumps not removed and sections sinking in the marshy areas. Trees, brush and other construction debris remained unburned. There was no public money to maintain the road and no early settlers on the route to do the work for free.”

– Robert Bradford, Keeping Ontario Moving: The History of Roads and Road Building in Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Road Builder’s Association, pp. 13-14.

Image: Titus Hibbert Ware, “Corduroy Road Over a Swamp in Orillia Township, Ontario.“  September 1844. Pen & brown & blue inks, grey wash, over pencil.

Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Room, M 1-17.

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“Jack Lett Is Given Ten Years In Prison,” Toronto Star. November 22, 1918. Page 02.

Canadian Express Co. Robber Also Pleads Guilty to Robbing Union Bank.

Jack Lett, the embryo highwayman who robbed the Canadian Express Co. of $20,000 on October 23, was to-day given ten years in the penitentiary. He withdrew his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to robbing the Union Bank and stealing an automobile. For these crimes he also received five and three years respectively. The sentences are to run concurrently.

His brother, Walter Lett, also withdrew his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to having received $1,000, which he knew to be stolen. This money he gave to his wife. He was let go on remanded sentence provided he gives $1,000 security and finds two other securities of $1,000 each.

James Gordon Dougall is to spend not less than one year and not more than two years in the Ontario Reformatory.

In addressing Jack Lett, Chief Justice Meredith said: ‘I have no desire to add to the severity of your sentence by lecturing you. I regret that I have no testimony as to your mental capabilities, so I must judge you as I have seen you. The main trouble with you seems to be inordinate vanity. In opening your case your counsel has pictured you as a pigeon-chested, varicose-veined misfit, who is undeveloped both physically and mentally.

Looking Into the Future.
‘Your picture of yourself is that of a bold highwayman. It is to cure you of this delusion that you are to be disciplined. If you were allowed to go free that gun of yours might go off some time, and then some judge would be talking about Jack Lett being hanged by the neck until he was dead.

‘If there had only been a ‘man’ in that express car who would have given you a good thrashing, taken away your pistol, and thrown you out you would have been cured. The only thing to do now is to seek to cure you by the panacea of hard labor.

‘Jack Lett, you were not made for a highwayman. You were given freedom of that express car. Afterwards you went wandering about like a frightened child, and impressed the first man whom you met as a thief. Moreover you left your plunder right under the very nose of those who suspected you. 

‘Walter Lett, you certainly did not do all you could to save your brother, and let me tell you the offence to which you plead guilty is a serious one.

Severe Words For Dougall.
‘James Gordon Dougall, your case has caused me a deal of thought. You were the chief clerk, you held a responsible position, and you can understand that your connection with this crime will cast suspicion upon your associates and inferiors. You were leading a disgraceful life. Don’t you think one should be horsewhipped for a life of that kind.

‘You were found guilty of the lesser offence, but a jury might well have found you the instigator in this farce.’

All the prisoners refused to say anything in their defence, and received their sentences in silence.

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“Jack Lett, Dougall Both Found Guilty,” Toronto Star. November 22, 1918. Page 05.

Mercy Plea on Behalf of Former Chief Clerk at Union Station.

After considering their verdict for 40 minutes the jury yesterday returned a verdict of guilty in the cases of Jack Lett and James Gordon Dougall with a strong recommendation for mercy in the case of the later. During the trial Jack Lett’s manner was one of cold indifference, while that of Dougall was broken-hearted. These two young men were charged with the robbery from the Canadian Express Company of $20,000 on October 23, Douglass was remanded until to-day or sentence. Then other charges will be preferred against the Lett brothers; Walter Lett is charged with receiving $1,000 from his brother which he knew to be stolen; Jack Lett is charged with robbing the Union Bank and stealing an auto.

At the afternoon sitting of the trial of James Gordon Dougall, charged with conspiracy in connection with the Canadian Express Co., $20,000 robbery, the young man’s father gave character evidence. Dougall, Jr., is 32 years of age and was chief clerk at the Old Union Station. His father commended, ‘My boy–’ and then broke down.

Chief Justice Meredith: ‘Your boy was always a good boy, gave you no trouble and you cannot speak too highly of his character.’

‘Oh yes, yes,’ said Mr. Dougall.

Gordon Dougall, sitting in the dock, hung his head and wiped his eyes.

Mr. Dougall, Sr., has lived in Barrie for 60 years. Gordon Dougall came to Toronto nine years ago.

Frank Denton, K.C., addressed the jury briefly. He admitted that his client, Jack Lett, was guilty of the crime, but made a plea on the ground of mental and physical weakness. Jack Lett has recently undergone several operations. Mr. Denton wanted to know why Cox, the Grand Trunk conductor who gave Lett the information regarding how the express money was handled, was not in the dock.

On behalf of his client, James Gordon Dougall, W. K. Murphy urged that he had taken no part in the crime, but that he had merely listened to the plans of his friend with whom he had grown up.

Mr. T. C. Agar, the Crown counsel, dismissed the case of Jack Lett in a few sentences since his counsel had admitted that he was guilty, and confined his address to the jury to the case of James Gordon Dougall.

His Lordship: ‘Mr. agar, all the points you presented were taken up from the statement of Dougall to the police.’

T. C. Agar: ‘I think so, my Lord.’

His Lordship: ‘Then, if he had kept his mouth shut there would have been no evidence against him?’

Referring to the messengers who held up their hands, His Lordship said: ‘I call them messengers, I cannot call them men.’

The jury retired at 3.15 pm.

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AL: All of the coverage of the shooting incident at Kingston General
Hospital by Millhaven Institution inmate Corey Ward has tended to
focus, understandably, on the effects it has had on the Hospital: staff
are feeling “traumatized” and “violated” according to Dr.
David Messenger, an emergency room doctor and head of the Queen’s
University department of emergency medicine. The
danger to other patients, the shock and fear of patients, their families and friends, and staff, and the need to bring in counselors and support all those deeply upset by the shooting, has been emphasized – again, understandably. The
Kingston-Whig
Standard
ran
with a story November 21
about the security and policy
changes that may take place at the Hospital, as well.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has told the press that both officers feel “shaken up” by the incident, while Correctional Service of Canada officially praised the escort team for being “very diligent and professional.” Ward’s criminal record – 10 years for uttering death threats, violent assault and assaulting a police officer in 2012 – has been released as well.

This local story interests
me for a few other reasons. Initial reports from
CTV via the Canadian Press said Ward was “found unconscious”
in his cell –
this is why he was brought to emergency. But
unconscious
from what? Why? During his arraignment, Ward
asked for a 30-day psychiatric assessment and
complained
that his medications were being withheld – was he on medication?
For what? Is that connected to the medical emergency in his cell?  He
was charged with attempted murder and firing with intent. but
aside from the initial reports saying the firearm was discharged
during a struggle (it’s not unknown for guns to be fired
accidentally during such a situation) and not aimed at anyone
directly, there is no publicly available evidence to back up these
charges. The
Kingston Police claim the escape was not premeditated, either. Again,
during his arraignment, Ward shouted out: “they
[the
correctional officers]
took the cuffs off me and dared me to attack them.”
This
may be a post-hoc justification, of course, and perhaps his escort did nothing of the sort, but given the history and
current relationship between staff and inmates at Millhaven – not
good is an understatement – this is not out of the realm of the possible.

Ward is being transferred to the Regional Reception Centre
in Saint-Anne-Des-Plaines, Quebec, which also houses the super-max Special
Handling Unit – a punitive measure without a doubt. This will also make his legal defense more difficult. Finally,
during the few seconds Ward was taped by CTV being dragged into the
courtroom by the Emergency Response Team escort (doing their best
security theatre routine) he yelled something about “suicide” and
Ashley Smith.” What was he trying to say? Why has this not been
reported on by the CBC or the Whig-Standard in their coverage? Does
this not bear further investigation, that an inmate, no matter how
violent or dangerous, might have a strong historical and communal
understanding of the connection between prison conditions, mental health and suicide?

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“Witnesses Identify Jack Lett As Robber,” Toronto Star. November 21, 1918. Page 02.

Two Express Messengers Say He Made Them Kneel in Car and Gagged Them,

THEN TOOK $20,000

Hewitt Ave. Residents Say He Called at Their Houses, Carrying the Plunder.

John Lett, Walter Lett and James Gordon Dougall were all three charged to-day before Chief Justice R. M. Meredith, with stealing $20,000 from the Canadian Express Company on October 23, on a train leaving Toronto for Hamilton. Frank Denton, K.C., is defending the Lett brothers, and U.K. Murphy is defending James Gordon Dougall. Jack Lett is charged with the actual commission of the crime.

George Williamson, the messenger who was robbed, said, in his evidence: ‘Just after we had left the Union Station a man got in the side door of the express car. The door was closed but not latched. He pointed a revolver at us and told us to kneel down and put up our hands. He ordered my assistant, Wilson, to lie down, then he swore at him and pushed him down, tying and gagging him.’

Both Went on Their Knees
The gags and ropes were produced and identified. 

Judge Meredith: ‘What were you doing at that time?’ Williamson: ‘I was down on my knees. Then he ordered me to open the strong box. I was tied and he helped himself. Before he jumped from the train he said: ‘If you open your mouth or say anything about this, I’ll get you again.’

Judge Meredith: ‘Did you have a weapon?’ ‘Yes, in my hip pocket.’

‘Couldn’t you use it?’ ‘No.’

‘Not when you were kneeling down saying your prayers all the time?’

Williamson and Wilson, the other messenger, who was called next, said that they got loose just west of New Toronto. Twenty thousand dollars was taken, and $100 in silver.

Both Identify John Lett
Both messengers identified Jack Lett as the man who robbed them.

W. J. Greenway, 37 Hewitt avenue, and Mrs. Roberston, 39 Hewitt avenue, both identified Jack Lett as the man who called on them on the morning of Oct. 23. He carried a paarcel wrapped in a black apron. He asked Greenway if he had a garage to rent, and if he knew anyone who had a room to rent. Greenway referred him to Mrs. Robertson, next door. Lett asked if she were a widow, and asked her for a room.

Mrs. Robertson: ‘I told him to come back in the evening. Mr. Greenway phoned me not to take him. He asked me if he could leave his parcel until evening. He said he was a printer and that these were his books. Afterwards, I became suspicious and opened the parcel. It contained sealed parcels. One of them was open, and I saw $2 bills. The man came back and rang the bell and tried to get in, but I had locked the doors. Then the police came and he ran away.

Found $8,800 Hid in Park.
Detective Taylor was called. He told of taking Jack Lett to High Park and finding $8,876.70 in a Canadian Express bag. He went to the home of Mrs. Walter Lett, 534A, St Clair avenue west, and recovered $1,000 from her. The police still keep this money, although they have turned over the rest to the express company.

Detective McConnell, who arrested the Lett brothers on November 5, told of finding $99.90 in silver in the Howard High Park Methodist Church.

Dougall’s Connection
The Inspector of Detectives, George Kennedy, gave evidence. He told of his interview with James Gordon Dougall.

‘Dougall said that he had known the Letts since he was a boy, that he had been raised by them. He said he saw Lett six weeks before at the Duke of Connaught Hotel at Hamilton. They discussed the possibility of robbing a jewelry store in Hamilton, which displayed a tray of diamonds in the window. They even walked down and looked at the window. Dougall said they would be caught if they broke the window. They also talked of robbing a Hamilton bank. They walked back to the hotel and met a railwayman named Cox. Cox said he knew an express messenger who left the Union Station often carrying between $60,000 and $100,000.

‘Later John Lett called up Dougall and asked if he knew a boarding place convenient to the Union Station. Dougall suggested a hotel at the corner of Spadina and King. Lett went there and registered under the name of Miller. Dougall admitted that he was to get some of the booty.

‘Again Jack Lett called up Dougall and asked him to get two keys made for a Ford and a McLaughlin car. Dougall said he hadn’t time to do it.

‘On the morning of the robbery Jack Lett called up Dougall, said he was speaking from a church, and asked Dougall to meet him. Dougall refused, say he had an appointment to go to Gravenhurst with a young lady that morning.’

James Henry, the police court stenographer, read the interview that he took down between Inspector Kennedy and Dougall. Dougall said that Jack Lett had previously robbed a bank and stolen a McLaughlin car in Hamilton.

Walter Lett’s Part.
Inspector Kennedy told of questioning Walter Lett:

‘He admitted bringing his brother to Toronto from Barrie and giving him a captain’s uniform which he, Walter, had worn. Walter Lett said he enlisted early in the war in a Forestry battalion, obtained his captaincy, and went to England.

‘He also admitted receiving $1,000 from his brother, which he knew was stolen. This money he gave to his wife.

‘Jack Lett, when I questioned him, admitted holding up the messengers and taking the money. He said that when he got to the roadway he expected to meet Dougall and Walter Lett, and when they were not there he was frightened. He hid some of the money in High Park and left a bag of silver in the High Park Methodist Church, from where ‘phoned to Dougall. He said he went to Mrs. Robertson’s, then left another parcel there. When the detectives came he ran back to High Park and hod. A man with a car drove past. He held him up, took his car and drove to Medhurst, where he abandoned the car. He purchased a ticket to North Bay, and got off at McTeir, and returned. After the robbery Walter saw Jack at Barrie and received $1,000 from him. He also tried to get his brother over to the United States.’

Walter Lett Acquitted.
Walter Lett was acquitted of the charge of conspiracy to rob the company, at the direction of Chief Justice Meredith, because there was no evidence against him, but Walter Lett is still held on the charge of receiving stolen money.

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“12 autres années de bagne pour Racine,” La Presse. November 21, 1980. Page A4.

Les tribulationsjudiciaires de Denis «Poker» Racine, 24 ans, en marge de toutes les frasques qu’il a commises ces derniers mois, bien qu’il ait été en prison depuis près de quatre ans, font partie de l’histoire ancienne depuis sa condamnation à 12 années additionnelles de bagne par le juge Jean-Guy Boilard, en Cour criminelle de Saint-Jérôme.

Cette peine, qui est consécutive à toute autre que peut purger Racine,vient de lui être imposée après qu’il eut été reconnu coupable, au terme du procès qu’il a subi au début du mois, pours a participation à une prise d’otages qui a duré 57 heures, au pénitencier Archambault de Sainte Anne-des-Plaines, en septembre 1979. 

Enprononçant cette sentence qu’il a qualifiée de sévère, le juge Boilard a expliqué qu’il avait pris en considération l’important rôle qu’avait tenu «Poker» Racine au cours de l’événement. L’un des trois mutins qu il’accompagnaient, Pierre Thibault, âgé de 20 ans, avait notamment été acquitté, après qu’il eut été établi qu’il avait justement été forcé par Racine à prendre part à la mutinerie.

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