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Teens could go free in 10 years

Article by: By DON PEAT, SUN MEDIA

The alleged killers of Stefanie Rengel would not face lengthy terms in jail for the crime.

TORONTO — Even if they get adult sentences, Stefanie Rengel’s two alleged killers will be out of jail — if convicted — before the 10th anniversary of her death, victim rights advocates say.
The New Year’s Day stabbing and the subsequent charges of first-degree murder for a 17-year-old boy, who turns 18 today, and a 15-year-old girl have led to a chorus of calls for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Joe Wamback, founder of the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation, said he’s seen all the outpouring of emotion and the calls for changes before and gets frustrated when the calls fade and the law remains unchanged.
The current law benefits the accused — and to the chagrin of yet another victim’s family, he said.
“They will never spend more than 10 years behind bars,” Wamback predicted yesterday.
“I want people to recognize an adult sentence doesn’t mean hard time. It could actually mean less time.”
Under the current Criminal Code and Youth Criminal Justice Act, he’s right.
A youth convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced as an adult could be sentenced to life without parole for five to seven years if they are under 16 at the time of the offence or 10 years if they are 17 or 18 at the time of the offence, according to the Criminal Code.
Wamback said when the court takes into account the time an offender spent in pre-trial custody, that further reduces the amount of time they would spend in jail.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, a youth sentence for first-degree murder cannot exceed six years from the date they went into custody.
A minor also can’t be sentenced to serve their time in an adult facility until the age of 20, Wamback said, and even then they could apply to stay in a youth facility.
Along with their time in what he calls “a Holiday Inn for young punks,” youth also will be entitled to receive a university education.
“Courtesy of you and me and everybody else reading a newspaper,” Wamback said.
The federal Conservatives are trying to push Bill C-25 through to amend parts of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the changes would ensure fair and appropriate measures to hold young people accountable when they break the law.