Vengeance is not the goal of B.C.'s justice system, a judge explained this week as she handed down a prison sentence for one of the young men involved in the swarming death of Luka Gordic.
On Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries sentenced Arvin Golic to seven years behind bars for manslaughter, but her voice was at times drowned out by the shouts of family and friends in the courtroom.
She has now released a written version of her decision online, laying out her reasons for a sentence that family members of the victim have described as a disgrace.
"No sentence can undo or lessen the despair and misery that this crime has caused to the family and friends of Luka Gordic. Retribution is a valid principle in criminal law, whereas vengeance or revenge is not," Humphries wrote.
Gordic was just 19 years old when he was swarmed and stabbed to death by a group of teenagers outside a 7-Eleven in Whistler, B.C. in 2015.
Gordic's older brother, Milos, stormed out of the courtroom Tuesday as the judge announced her sentence, telling reporters it was "absolute garbage." Subtracting time already served, Golic will spend about five years behind bars.
In her reasons, Humphries stressed the importance of imposing a sentence that is just, emphasizing objective reasoning over anger. She quoted a 1996 judgment from the Supreme Court of Canada, which said that "unlike vengeance, retribution incorporates a principle of restraint."
Few mitigating factors
But at the same time, Humphries stressed that there were "few, if any" mitigating factors to consider, apart from Golic's young age. He was 18 when Gordic was killed.
For one thing, Golic did not appear to be sorry for what he had done, the judge wrote.
"I realize the hatred and vitriol displayed daily in the courtroom and in the halls of the courthouse by the family and friends of Mr. Gordic towards Mr. Golic and his parents might make it difficult for him to contemplate actually speaking aloud in court," Humphries said.
"However, I have no real sense of remorse on the part of Mr. Golic from the statements that have been made by his family and others."
He also had a troubling record as a young offender: two prior offences involving knives.
Meanwhile, all the evidence at trial pointed toward Golic organizing the attack on Gordic. The judge said that while she was unable to conclude that he knew the gang of young men would stab their victim with knives, the swarming was premeditated.
"Rather than cooling down over the course of the evening, he and his friends continued to look for Mr. Gordic, and upon finding him, descended on him relentlessly," Humphries wrote.
"It was so cowardly, cruel and utterly pointless that it is difficult to comprehend."
The only motive was "ridiculous, uninformed, and senseless," according to the judge.
It concerned Golic's false belief that his ex-girlfriend was in a relationship with Gordic. That belief began when Gordic asked a friend of Golic's to pass on the message that Golic should stop abusing the young woman, according to the judge's reasons.
Murder charge reduced
Golic was originally charged with second-degree murder, but, after a three-week trial, Humphries said, she was unable to conclude that he'd actually planned to kill Gordic, a necessary element to prove murder.
In early October, three youths were also found guilty in Gordic's death. Two were convicted of manslaughter and a third was convicted of second-degree murder. They can't be named, because they were 17 when the crime happened.
The Crown has said it will be seeking adult sentences in their cases.