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Vancouver judge blasts lawyers at sex-offender sentencing

‘Don’t mail it in’ Judge James Sutherland told lawyers at the sentencing of registered sex offender Marcos Hurtado.
Vancouver provincial court house. Photo Vikki Hui

Two Vancouver provincial court lawyers got a tongue-lashing from a judge unimpressed by their preparation for the sentencing of a registered sex offender who hadn’t reported for about five years of a 10-year Sex Offender Information Registration Act order.

Marcos Hurtado, 33, pleaded guilty in September 2017 to voyeurism and producing and distributing child pornography in Manitoba.

In March 2015, Hurtado was at a party when one of his friends took a 14-year-old girl up to a bedroom and had sex with her while Hurtado recorded a video and posted it on the popular social media platform Snapchat, according to news reports at the time.

As part of his sentence, Hurtado was put on the national sex offender registry and ordered to report every year to a registration centre.

This spring, however, he was charged with violating that order.

And, at a sentencing hearing in Vancouver provincial court Tuesday, articled student for the defence Emma Reaume said the last time Hurtado reported was 2018.

“He tells me that he didn’t realize it was an ongoing reporting obligation,” Reaume said.

In a joint sentencing submission, Reaume and Crown prosecutor Ross Fahrni called for a sentence of time served since Hurtado had already spent two days behind bars.

But B.C. provincial court Judge James Sutherland took the unusual step of adding one year of probation as well.

Judges are obliged to go along with a joint submission unless they rule it would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute or is otherwise contrary to the public interest.”

In Hurtado’s case, Sutherland said probation was necessary to make sure Hurtado reported as directed to a sex offender registration centre.

He noted neither Reaume nor Fahrni had supplied information about where or how Hurtado should register.

Reaume said he could report to his bail supervisor, but Sutherland noted his bail would be over at the end of the hearing.

“So, what happens now with respect to his reporting?” he asked. “What arrangements have you made?”

Reaume said she hadn’t made any.

“This should have been packaged up and taken care of,” Sutherland said.

He took Fahrni to task as well for providing him with next to no details about the case during the hearing, making no submission about his previous criminal record or history of breaching court orders.

“With virtually no facts, no background, I’m not accepting a joint submission because I just don’t have the information that the court would need to feel comfortable with it,” Sutherland said. “What I’m saying, and I’m also saying this to any young counsel out there, is don’t mail it in. This is important to Mr. Hurtado. It’s important to these people that are in the gallery and see how our justice system works. The integrity of it all rests on how thorough and complete we are to make sure that things function properly, and we owe it to people like Mr. Hurtado and we owe it to the citizens out there as well.”

Fahrni apologized, admitting he had been “embarrassingly unprepared” for the hearing.