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Grieving Port Coquitlam father wants more help for victims

Gord Penner has been an outspoken critic of the justice system
Gord Penner has been an outspoken critic of the justice system's treatment of victims ever since his son, Jesse, was stabbed to death outside a Port Coquitlam house party in 2006.
— image credit: GARY MCKENNA/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Gord Penner has been an outspoken critic of the justice system’s treatment of victims ever since his son, Jesse, was stabbed to death outside a Port Coquitlam house party in 2006.

But in the last few years, Penner’s definition of the word “victim” has changed.

While he has not forgiven Ryan Crossley, the man currently serving a six-year sentence for the murder of his son, Penner believes the justice system turned its back on the 16-year-old perpetrator, who had a history of violence, mental problems and drug abuse.

“You have to be a realist,” Penner said. “You have to recognize that... this kid also was a victim. I can’t deny that. Me denying that this kid was also a victim is just wrong. He was a child that was in serious distress at a young age... and who was helping him?”

With Crossley’s prison sentence expected to end this summer, Penner is once again calling on the government to step up its efforts to help victims of crime and increase funding for rehabilitation and mental health services.

He added that more needs to be done to help victims financially, with many people unable to properly grieve their loss because they are forced back to work. In Penner’s case, he had to return to work after three months, leaving his wife at home by herself at a time when she needed more support.

“They offer programs,” he said, “but have you ever tried to pay a mortgage with a program? Have you ever tried to eat a program? It is so unbalanced it is embarrassing.”

Last year, the Parole Board of Canada refused early release for Crossley, saying the 22-year-old has not completed any programming to address his propensity for violence or his substance abuse issues. They also noted that the inmate, who had suffered two serious head injuries as a youth, had committed numerous violent acts behind bars.

At the time of the stabbing, Jesse Penner had attempted to break up a fight outside a PoCo house party when he was stabbed, later dying from his wounds.

During the judge’s sentencing in 2007, he noted Crossley, then 16, had 10 prior convictions, some for violent assaults. The judge also noted that at the time he killed Penner, Crossley was on supervised release awaiting sentencing for another offence. Gord Penner said he is still awaiting information from the government indicating why Crossley was released on bail given his history of violence and drug abuse.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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