RATTAN’S RUMBLE: Stabbing case judgment: Collective responsibility

BOTH the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal have sent out a loud and clear message to hoodlums: You have to take collective responsibility for your actions.

I think it’s a brilliant stand because it will discourage hoodlums from participating in group attacks as cowards who think they will get away with it because it is hard, if not impossible, to prove who stabbed the victim or pulled the trigger or delivered a kick or punch.

If you were involved in any assault as a group, well then face the music collectively.

Three men, Sebastian Miazga, Patrick Avery Plowman and Nolan Mutemba Swallow were convicted of manslaughter in a 2009 fatal attack on Tyson Edwards outside a downtown nightclub. A fourth man was acquitted because the Crown failed to prove he participated in the attack.

Three or four men punched Edwards in the head and upper body and then kicked him in the head and body as he lay on the sidewalk. One of the attackers tried to bang his head against the curb. Someone stabbed the victim in the chest with a knife and two of the wounds proved to be fatal.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Victor Curtis said he didn’t know who used the knife but the attackers acted together as joint perpetrators.

The three men’s principal argument was that they could not be convicted of manslaughter because there was no evidence as to who stabbed Edwards and no evidence they knew, or could have foreseen, that a knife would be used during the attack on him.

But the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals of the three men.

Justice David Frankel noted: “The appellants advance their appeals on the following factual basis: * They participated in a group-attack (i.e., assault) on Mr. Edwards knowing he would likely suffer some non-trivial harm as a result; * The attack lasted approximately one minute; * An unknown member of the group stabbed Mr. Edwards resulting in his death; * They neither knew that one of the group had a knife, nor did they foresee a knife would be used during the attack on Mr. Edwards.”

He added: “In my view, those facts satisfy all the elements of manslaughter, which is a crime of consequences.  When the appellants participated in the attack, they engaged in an unlawful act where non-trivial / non-transitory harm to Mr. Edward was objectively foreseeable.  As a result, they bear legal responsibility for Mr. Edward’s death at the hands of one of the other attackers, even though they did not intend for Mr. Edward to die or foresee that one of the attackers would use a knife.”

This ruling should serve as a strong warning to those who think they can get away with manslaughter or murder or any other crime if they are in a group.