Eddie Muarice is no longer being prosecuted for doing what any man in his situation would do, protecting his family. While the Alberta rancher is cleared of charges of shooting at two burglars this past February, he is cleared for all the wrong reasons.
Maurice was home alone with his two young daughters in the early hours of February 24, 2018. He heard noises outside, saw people rummaging through his vehicles and fired warning shots.
He hit one of the people now charged for the incident. Ryan Watson, is facing charges of trespassing at night, mischief to property, theft as well as drug and probation charges. Watson was hit in the arm by one of the bullets that Maurice fired.
All the wrong reasons.
Maurice isn’t now cleared of all charges because the Crown realized they were persecuting a man for no reason. Maurice is cleared because forensic evidence shows the bullet that hit Watson was from a ricochet and not a direct shot.
The ricochet is the only reason that Crown prosecutor Jim Sawa dropped charges on Friday.
“That information was compelling, to say the least, and it had a direct impact on the decision today to withdraw the charges,” Sawa said.
Maurice had been facing charges of aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm. All far more serious charges with more possible jail time for Maurice than Watson may have faced.
Police and prosecutors are on the wrong side.
It’s a perverse aspect of our criminal justice system. Those that protect themselves, their families or their property are put through the wringer by zealous police and prosecutors.
Even after the decision was announced that Maurice’s charges were dropped, the Crown and RCMP were giving warnings not to take matters into your own hands.
Yet this is clearly allowed under Canadian law.
We have always had the right to self-defence of hearth and home. Our laws and judicial interpretation of them may not be a strident as American “castle laws” or “stand your ground laws” but self-defence is clearly spelled out in the criminal code.
What the law actually says.
In 2012 Parliament even strengthened the language around this issue to send a message to those zealous Crowns and police. They amended the criminal code to clearly spell it out.
35 (1) A person is not guilty of an offence if
(a) they either believe on reasonable grounds that they are in peaceable possession of property or are acting under the authority of, or lawfully assisting, a person whom they believe on reasonable grounds is in peaceable possession of property;
(b) they believe on reasonable grounds that another person
(i) is about to enter, is entering or has entered the property without being entitled by law to do so,
(ii) is about to take the property, is doing so or has just done so, or
(iii) is about to damage or destroy the property, or make it inoperative, or is doing so;
(c) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of
(i) preventing the other person from entering the property, or removing that person from the property, or
(ii) preventing the other person from taking, damaging or destroying the property or from making it inoperative, or retaking the property from that person; and
(d) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.
Watson wasn’t killed in this incident, he got a nick from a bullet. He’s lucky quite frankly.
In my view Maurice never should have faced charges. Ask what you would do in his situation?
For all the urbanites saying they would call 9-11, good luck.
The police are not always around the corner.
As Nick Cornea, the young man behind the Facebook group Farmers Against Rural Crime told me a few months ago, you can’t expect the police in 15 minutes in the country side.
“Anywhere from 45 min to 3 hours depending on the severity of what that person is doing,” Cornea says when asked how long it would take for police to arrive at his farm if he called in with an active complaint.
Rural Canada is facing a crime problem, especially in places like Okotoks where Maurice lives.
Calgary Hearld columnist Licia Corbella has described it as a “meth-fueled epidemic.” While Maurice didn’t get injured in the raid on his property, others have as Corbella describes in her column.
Would you want meth-fueled addicts going through your property while your two little girls slept? The police are too far away and you are the only thing to protect them.
What do you do?
I know what I would have done if I was in Eddie Maurice’s shoes. I would have done what the law allows and shot at the burglars.
That may shock some with delicate sensibilities and more empathy for criminals than a man protecting his family but it is the truth.
The real shame in this situation is that Maurice was charged and faced jail time at all.
Time for Crowns and police to use some common sense, oh, and read the criminal code again.