ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
Having already pleaded guilty to breaching two court orders to stay away from areas frequented by children, Matthew Twyne attempted to offer an explanation for his actions at his sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Twyne has been in custody since Dec. 23, when RNC officers arrested him after receiving a report placing him in the parking lot of MAX, a recreational facility catering to children, on St. Clare Avenue in St. John’s four days previously. He had been released from prison that very day, after serving a sentence for a similar breach in October.
Twyne, 35, told Judge Lori Marshall he had been looking for cigarette butts in the MAX parking lot and had no idea it was a children’s facility, since he isn’t a native of St. John’s. Marshall didn’t buy it, saying she had seen from his criminal record — which is 27 pages long — that he has been living in the St. John’s area since 2014.
“There really is an onus on you to make sure you know where you’re not supposed to go. You’re not supposed to randomly go places and hope for the best,” Marshall told Twyne, who appeared in the courtroom by video from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary.
His October arrest came after he was spotted at the gazebo at Quidi Vidi Lake.
Twyne’s record includes seven convictions for committing indecent acts in public, and he was registered as a sex offender in 2018. Among his prior offences is a 2019 incident in which he exposed himself to two women walking on the Long Pond Trail, three days after being released from prison upon completing a federal sentence for exposing himself to children at a St. John’s dance school.
“I think that (prosecutor Tannis King) rightly states that at this particular juncture there is a concern for public safety, Mr. Twyne,” the judge said.
“Clearly specific deterrence is not really taking hold with you, Mr. Twyne. You get jail sentences for these offences, yet you promptly turn around and fall afoul again by not complying with the conditions that you’re subjected to. In this particular case, you were released from prison on Dec. 19 and on the same day you ended up getting yourself in trouble again. The message doesn’t appear to be getting through.”
King and defence lawyer Philip Warren presented a joint submission for seven months in prison followed by three years of supervised probation for Twyne, with an order to attend sex offender counselling.
“You’re not supposed to randomly go places and hope for the best.” — Judge Lori Marshall
Warren said Twyne’s social worker had advised him of some community supports available to Twyne upon his release, including housing and counselling with a sexologist.
Twyne’s consistent arrests and jail sentences have drawn significant public outrage, with members of the community suggesting the court should come down harder on him in the name of public protection, given his pattern of behaviour.
However, the Crown can’t request and judges can’t impose whatever sentence they personally feel is appropriate for a crime. They are bound by the limits of sentencing in the Criminal Code of Canada, which sets out the maximum and, in some cases, the minimum sentences that can be imposed for an offence, as well as by previous similar cases. By law the courts must apply a sentence that is similar to what other defendants have received in the past for the same offence. If a judge chooses to ignore precedent and impose a sentence that’s significantly higher or lower, he or she must give a good reason for doing so, and the matter would likely be appealed.
Court order breaches routinely earn jail sentences of 30 days.
Once an offender completes their sentence, neither the courts nor corrections authorities nor police can keep them in custody. An exception is if the person is formally designated a dangerous offender, in which case they are given an indeterminate jail sentence, until they are deemed to no longer pose a public danger. Dangerous offender status is reserved for sexual predators and otherwise violent criminals, when the Crown is able to prove a high risk of the offender committing other serious personal-injury crimes in the future. Probation breaches may not meet those criteria on their own.
Marshall accepted the joint submission and sentenced Twyne to seven months in prison, minus enhanced credit for the time he has spent on remand, followed by three years of supervised probation. Twyne has 93 days left to serve.
Tara Bradbury reports on justice and the courts in St. John’s. [email protected] | Twitter: @tara_bradbury | Facebook: @telegramtara