The first youth to plead guilty to manslaughter in the brutal 2001 beating death of Aaron Webster will be walking the streets of the Lower Mainland within days.
The youth, now 21, appeared in youth court Nov 30 as judge Valmond Romilly detailed his conditions for release.
The youth has already served two years in custody and, to complete his sentence, will serve a year in open supervision.
“This application is not akin to parole,” Romilly stressed. “Neither is it a review of the young person’s prison sentence. Our sole pre-occupation at this stage is to help a youth who committed a terrible offence while still a youth to rehabilitate and reintegrate himself into the community and salvage some of his life as he enters into adulthood.”
The youth, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, will be living in a Fraser Valley community. The exact location is protected by a publication ban. Romilly said the youth’s father, who also cannot be named, has sold the family’s Burnaby house so his son can get on with his life away from the area where the events of Nov 17, 2001 unfolded.
Romilly noted that the youth has participated in every rehabilitation program available to him during his two years in custody and has also upgraded his high school qualifications as he prepares to take a vocational course.
As part of the release conditions, the youth is not allowed to possess golf clubs, baseball bats, alcohol or nonprescription drugs. He is not allowed near Stanley Park or the West End and must abide by a curfew. He is not permitted to contact any of his co-accused nor may he attempt to contact members of Webster’s family except to participate in a restorative justice meeting with them.
“Those are my conditions,” Romilly said to the youth. “I trust you will abide by them.”
“Yes, I will,” the youth replied.
Webster’s cousin, Fred Norman, who was in court for the proceedings, is open to a restorative justice meeting. “It’s part of a process we’d like to pursue,” he says. “Some members of the family may obviously have a hard time with that.”
The courtroom was a scene of contrasts.
The youth, eyes downcast, sat quietly in the prisoner’s box, his nervousness betrayed only by the constant shaking of his hands. As the hearing ended, however, he smiled at his father who clapped Norman on the back in a friendly manner as the room cleared.
“He put his family through hell,” Norman says of the youth. “You can’t hate the family. They’ve been a little more conciliatory toward understanding that their son participated in the murder of somebody in our family.”
Of the other families, Norman says “they’ve been denying that it’s something that their precious son[s] took part of. To us, it’s even more infuriating.”
But, he still fells that the total three-year sentence, even though it was the maximum allowable, is not enough for taking a human life.
“This is the system,” he says. “The politicians don’t want to change that. What can you do?”
Outside court, the youth’s lawyer said the youth is “relieved as anybody would be on being able to get back with his family.”
On the evening of Nov 17, 2001, a group of thugs encountered Webster in a Stanley Park cruising area. The 41-year-old man was naked except for his boots. They chased Webster to his parked car near Second Beach where he was beaten to death with blunt weapons.
A coroner’s report indicated massive bruising all over Webster’s body. The immediate cause of death was an injury to his vertebral artery and trauma due to blows to the head and neck.
The two youths who pleaded guilty in the case testified as part of the BC Supreme Court proceedings against Ryan Cran and Danny Rao last November.
The youths testified against Cran and Rao as part of a plea deal but Justice Mary Humphries dismissed much of their evidence as self-serving and not to be believed.
Cran received six years in prison for his role in Webster’s death. Rao was acquitted.
An appeal of Cran’s sentence has been filed but no date has been set for it to be heard.
The second youth continues to serve the last portion of his two years in closed custody and will begin serving the open portion of his sentence in the spring.