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‘No justice’ in sentence, says father of slain Comox Valley teen

COURTENAY — The father of a Comox Valley teenager who was stabbed to death said there was no justice for his son after Friday’s sentencing of the youth found guilty in the case.
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James Denton died after being stabbed twice during an altercation in 2011.

COURTENAY — The father of a Comox Valley teenager who was stabbed to death said there was no justice for his son after Friday’s sentencing of the youth found guilty in the case.

On July 23, 2011, 19-year-old James Denton was stabbed twice with a 10-centimetre knife during an altercation that took place after a concert in Courtenay. Denton died later in hospital.

The second-degree murder conviction means the youth, who was 16 at the time of the incident and cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, will spend four years in prison followed by three years of conditional supervision in the community.

Denton’s father, David Denton, was visibly upset after the sentencing.

“There is no justice for James, I guess. That was a slap in the face,” he said. “I am disgusted. I have had it… Everybody in this country, as long as this bull---- keeps going on, is not safe.”

The sentence was the maximum allowable under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and does not take into account 18 months the youth has already spent in jail. He is scheduled for release from custody in January 2017. Three years later, when he is 25, his community supervision will come to an end.

Crown counsel Gordon Baines had argued for an adult sentence, which would have meant life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after seven years, plus parole conditions for the rest of the youth’s life.

Supreme Court Judge R.B.T. Goepel expressed sympathy for the Denton family but said an adult sentence would not change the fact that their loved one was dead.

“I recognize the enormous loss that James’s death has visited upon your family and friends. James was everything a parent would want as a son, as a brother and as a friend. … There are no words that can properly capture the loss that you have suffered,” he said.

“While the justice system has a role to play in addressing the damage that has been caused, it is but a narrow and limited role. Nothing the justice system can do or might ever do could ever possibly right such a terrible wrong.”

In his reasons for imposing a youth sentence, Goepel said that the youth is working to overcome substance-abuse issues that began when he experimented with alcohol at 12.

Goepel also pointed out that despite some disciplinary problems in school and an early home life that involved verbal and possibly physical abuse between his parents, he was on the honour roll a number of times and had a part-time job at a grocery store, where he was considered a good employee.

Since his arrest, the youth has completed high school and been accepted at a local community college.

Before imposing sentence, Goepel addressed the youth.

“What you did was incredibly stupid, abhorrent and horrifying. You have caused lasting pain to the Denton family and James’s many friends. What you did can never be undone,” he said.

“The issue before me, however, is whether or not a youth sentence will have sufficient length to hold you accountable for your offending behaviour. … Given the circumstances of the offence, your history and circumstances and the various other factors I have mentioned herein, I find that a youth sentence will have sufficient length to hold you accountable for your behaviour.”