Is Crown Prosecutor Paul Hawkins responsible for New Brunswick's 3rd Legion Fire in a year? That may sound like an outrageous question, but before you make that judgment I would ask you to consider how Paul Hawkins dealt with the first Royal Canadian Legion arson case in New Brunswick, just one year ago.
In that case 18-year-old arsonist Wayne Heighton was treated like a kid who had skipped English class, not like a criminal who burned down Royal Canadian Legion Branch #93.
Instead of charging this little puke with arson and sending him to jail to punish him for his crime, Crown Prosecutor Paul Hawkins chose instead to let the young arsonist plead guilty to "mischief."
When I was a youth about that age, "mischief" was defined as throwing eggs at someone's window. Perhaps you might have gotten my parents to admit it was "mischief" to throw rocks, breaking that window, but were I to have burned down a building, I'm sure they would have led the charge to have me tossed in jail.
Burning down a building where our war veterans gather to reminisce, have a few cheap beers, and take endless trips down memory lane sparked by the irreplaceable war memorabilia covering the walls and display cases is hardly meets the definition of "mischief."
Webster's Dictionary defines that as:
"an action that annoys or irritates"
Tossing eggs at someone's home qualifies, I think. But arson causing over a million dollars in damage and the loss of irreplaceable artifacts?
arson: the willful or malicious burning of property (as a building) especially with criminal or fraudulent intent
That sounds a lot more like what Wayne Heighton of Oromocto, New Brunswick, was guilty of, don't you think?
But not Crown Prosecutor Paul Hawkins. No, he figures a slap on the wrist will teach this young arsonist a lesson. Recent history would seem to prove otherwise.
As I wrote earlier on this subject:
So, given that burning down a building and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars damage, if not more, garners a slap on the wrist from Crown prosecutor Paul Hawkins, one really has to wonder what the objectives are.
If deterring crime was one of those objectives, letting Wayne Heighton off the hook wouldn’t be happening, and neither would the prosecution of Lawrence Manzer.
Then on June 14th, 2011, Royal Canadian Legion Branch #60, 75 kilometres east of Fredericton on Route 105, was intentionally set on fire by person or persons unknown. About the only upside to this arson case is that the building had not been occupied for some time. Nobody was hurt and no priceless memorabilia was destroyed.
As yet nobody has been arrested or charged for this crime.
Now comes a third New Brunswick fire in a Royal Canadian Legion building, this time in the small town Millville, New Brunswick. The upside for this tiny community is that the building wasn't completely destroyed, and many of the priceless artifacts inside were saved from destruction.
That doesn't change the fact that one of the town's primary gathering places has been destroyed and will take time and a lot of money to rebuild.
Millville Mayor Bev Forbes wasn't willing to commit to a rebuilding plan, but emphasized how important the Legion building is to his small community. He did say that he couldn't imagine Millville without its Legion Hall though.
"I think, with the community, that we will probably all work together and we'll get something back up and going. I can't see it going to the wayside right at this moment."
The fire started late at night, and at this point firefighters are unsure what caused the blaze. Given the way New Brunswick's Crown Prosecutors deal with known arsonists, however, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if it was arson.
I mean really, what's the downside for the arsonist, even if he or she gets caught? Probation? Maybe a little community service? There is clearly no fear of actually going to jail, since there won't be any Arson charges against them.
New Brunswick has Crown Prosecutor Paul Hawkins to blame for that insanity.