Lahey Sentencing

The Chronicle-Herald
January 8, 2012

Philip Latimer, right, holds a childhood photo of himself in October 2009 during a media conference in Halifax. Mr. Latimer, along with his brother Warren, left, allege sexual abuse as children by their priest. (CHRISTIAN LAFORCE / Staff)

IF you're looking to gain some perspective on last week's quick release of disgraced former bishop Raymond Lahey, we have just the man for you.

His name is Philip Latimer and he hails from Inverness County. The 50-year-old man is suing the Roman Catholic Church over sexual abuse he says he suffered as a boy at the hands of a priest who has since died.

Mr. Latimer is a welder, not a lawyer, but his layman's insights are no less astute. "I don't call this a justice system. I call it a legal system," he told The Chronicle Herald after Mr. Lahey was sentenced to time served and walked out of an Ottawa courtroom.

Most Nova Scotians would be hard-pressed to disagree with that analysis. Just last month, the general public was dismayed to see the molestation convictions against another high-profile defendant, Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, struck down because the case took too long to wend its way through the courts. And now the ex-bishop of Antigonish, who was nabbed at the Ottawa airport two years ago with a cache of pornographic images of young boys on his laptop, is already on parole because he was awarded a two-for-one credit on time spent in jail while awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Lahey was lucky he was charged before the Harper government did away with such credits, which were aimed at easing overcrowding in jails and dispensed at a judge's discretion. If the Ontario judge in this case had sent Mr. Lahey back to jail for a few more months, it might at least have struck a blow for the silent victims the countless, nameless children who are harmed in the production of pornography. Disappointingly, he chose not to.

Mr. Latimer is right when he says the shortcomings of the criminal justice system discourage potential victims of sexual abuse from coming forward because the outcome is often unsatisfactory. But the "legal system" is also larger than the criminal law, and it is often through civil lawsuits like his that perpetrators, and those who protect them, end up paying the highest price. There is some justice in that.

Paradoxically, Mr. Latimer's faith not in the justice system but in God remains intact. He has told more than one interviewer over the years that it rests in Christ, not in fallible institutions and flawed individuals. Maybe it's a message worth repeating.



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