If there is one true and certain fact about being a judge, it is that their public time on the bench deciding legal cases is rarely, if ever fun. Some cases can leave one with a clear understanding why they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do their difficult job.
There are many different kinds of cases that keep judges both busy and often sleepless at night. Elder abuse, rape, family violence, commercial fraud, breach of contract, intentional torts and the like involve avoidable and permanent tragedy to real people. Our judges have to sit in on judgment and that means hearing the evidence, often contradictory evidence that cannot but sometimes cut to their very soul.
The Judge and the Horror
In British Columbia, there are approximately 90 men and women who sit on the primary common law court, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which hears all of these kinds of cases. One of those is Mr. Justice Keith Bracken of Victoria.
He drew R. v. Levesque, which included allegations since proven that a real human being, not some evil demon in a science fiction movie, a one Jean-Pierre Francois Levesque of Victoria, participated in a crime so terrible and horrific that even the newspaper article about it had a caution about "graphic content".1
The biography published about the Honorable "J. Keith Bracken" on the occasion of his appointment to the bench shows that as with all judges, these are not aliens even if for some arcane reason, they have to be formally and even socially addressed by the aIien title of "My Lord" and "My Lady". These are among our very best citizens, J. Keith Bracken included.
Mr. Justice Bracken once worked in a brewery and was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before becoming a lawyer in 1977 and then he was appointed a judge in 1991. But not even a career patrolling the highways of Saskatchewan or practicing as a lawyer in Victoria or even as a crown counsel could not fully inure anyone for the evidence in R v Levesque.
Short of resigning, judges can't leave a case because there are outraged or disgusted. Mr. Justice Bracken had to sit in some brown wood-paneled and red carpeted courtroom in Victoria, Canada and listen and see evidence the kind of which would make anybody's blood curdle.
Levesque, 62, was found in possession of child pornography in 2011. According to the evidence, and with the collusion of the five-year-old victim's father in China, all directed and broadcast over Skype, Levesque directed the father, presumably for money (cyber sex tourism), to perform specific pedophile and incestuous acts on the young child, all filmed and broadcast on the Internet.
Levesque had no prior record and, wait for it, had been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, according to local legal affairs journalist Louise Dickson, Levesque had the hypocrisy to show up at his sentencing hearing wearing a Canadian peacekeeper blazer.
Once trial started, Mr. Justice Bracken had to do what a judge has to do. He could not say, "Ok, I've heard enough of that" or "Can't we talk about something else?" Judge Bracken had to look at the pictures and film footage and that act alone must have been extremely difficult. At one point during the playback of the horrendous video evidence, there was the unmistakable sound of an infant sobbing.
In sentencing Levesque to five years in a Canadian prison, Judge Bracken offered the hope that the convicted individual would receive some counseling.
On the other side of the world, in China, more severe actions were probably taken. The local Canadian Crown counsel made efforts to tell Chinese authorities about the crime. It is distinctly possible that the offending father was given a taste of Chinese criminal justice: a quick trial and a bullet to the head. Chinese authorities won't say what happened to the father.
Nothing known to man or psychiatry will ever be able to give the young Chinese boy his innocence, his life or his privacy back. He may have lost a father as well in these events, admittedly not one worth keeping, and he certainly will never totally be able to get rid of the memories a Victoria, British Columbia man caused to occur on the infant's person.
As one judge will likely never forget this case, the heart of everyone in Victoria goes out to a nameless but battered very young Chinese man, with some shame and humiliation that it was a Canadian, one of our's, just up the highway, that caused this to happen.
But maybe, too, there is proud and honor in the fact of the aggressive machinery of justice that ferreted-out and took out a source of child sexual abuse, and then meted out justice.
In China, if suspicions are accurate, that source will never darken our world again.
- His honor Judge J. Keith Bracken, 49 Advocate 464 (1991) This, on the occasion of his appointment to the Provincial Court of British Columbia, a position he held before his appointment to the Supreme Court)
- NOTE 1: Dickson, Louise, Island Man Gets 5 Years for Cyber Sex Tourism, Times-Colonist newspaper, Victoria, BC, Canada, June 28, 2013