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< Permit Rules | Problems 2006 | Sandpit Maintenance >

Description: Individual appears to try to abduct child from park; park neighbours following the case through the courts
Status: Open
Categories: Safety, Police

posted May 16 2006, updated last: Dec.1 2006

Tri Van Huynh court case

From Jutta Mason to "Dufferingrovefriends" neighbourhood list serve, May 16, 2006

Dufferin Grove Park is not a social work agency and so we don't try to find people who are in trouble. But when trouble finds us, we try to follow it up.

Last January a long-time friend of the park was at the Manulife Centre with her kids. While she tried to find out some information from the building staff, a man grabbed her eldest (10-year-old) daughter and tried to pull her along with him. The plucky kid resisted and he was arrested soon after. It turned out that Tri Van Huynh had done similar stuff before and had a police record. It also turned out that he lives in this neighbourhood, across from the Dovercourt Y. The police published his photo on their web site and most people around here have already seen it.

It takes a long time for a case to come to trial, and three weeks ago, before a trial date had been set, Mr.Huynh was suddenly released on bail, back to the unstaffed rooming house where he lives. That didn't make sense to the parents nor to the rest of us, so on Thursday May 4, a couple of us went to his set-date hearing at Old City Hall, Courtroom J. The hearing turned out to be in Courtroom M, but Mr.Huynh didn't show up, so a warrant went out for his re-arrest.

His rooming house is only a couple of blocks from Fourteen Division, so by evening he was back in Don Jail. When his bail hearing came up again, on Friday May 12, a few of us went down again. We sat and watched the most vivid procession of sorrows and ill luck all morning, in *Courtoom 102 *(Mental Health Court), but neither Mr.Huynh nor his lawyer were there and the case was rescheduled for Monday. On Monday we watched all morning again, but again there was no sign of Mr.Huynh or the lawyer and the case was put over to Tuesday.

Today, Tuesday, Mr.Huynh arrived at court handcuffed in a line to all the other people booked for today. So it was clear that at least one element in the story was nearby. For those who have never been to the courts at Old City Hall -- you should go! The courts are a vivid mix of riveting stories, missing documents, lawyers with hairstyles, old-world formalities, teeth-gritting exasperation, anti-climax, and tears. A roller-coaster, guaranteed to keep you awake hour after hour.

So it was today. After four hours of the most diverse cases, and a break for lunch, Mr.Huyn's lawyer arrived. After another hour, the case finally got its turn. For some moments it was clear (to us alarmed observers) that the court was looking at the wrong file. Then there were some language problems, and then the right file came to hand. The crown prosecutor, after expressing his amazement that this man had been given bail at any point, said the case had been booked into the wrong court.

Mr.Hunh was ordered to come back to *Courtroom J* next week. He tried to say something else to his interpreter, but this seemed to annoy the court police. She grabbed him and pulled him out of the prisoners' box back into the custody room, and the door closed behind them.

So that was the fourth day. The next time a few others will go -- just to keep an eye on this, and to not get any more big surprises. If anyone on this list would like to spend a few hours watching the next time, e-mail and the park staff will confirm the schedule.

One thing that is clear is that the court system is overwhelmed by a blizzard of paperwork and conflicting schedules. It's easy to understand the lament of police -- that they are forced to sit for hours and days waiting for court cases that are then still postponed. Court workers race from courtroom to fax machine to counseling services to the clerks' office and back again, hopefully with the needed document. The court workers are surprisingly civil, considering these frustrations, but certainly there is no space for community concerns in this process.

Time for some changes. What changes would help is still a big question. But for now, Mr.Huynh's cases (there are several similar charges against him) are still pending.

Update from Jutta Mason, May 18 2006

We decided not to go to the court date today because we figured there was no way that it would be anything but a set-date. I hope that's right.

I wonder if this man speaks English?

My worry is that if this man doesn't speak English and if he is jail for a finite length of time inside a bubble of no language he will eventually be released even more troubled and dangerous than he went in. Which may not be good news for some kid down the road.

It may be that the catch-22 is total, so that nothing can help. But I think maybe we need to just cast around a little more....?

The guy who prints the park newsletter, who's Vietnamese, told me there is a Vietnamese social work agency on Ossington somewhere. I wonder if they do court work.....

Meeting report, May 23, 2006

The mother met with the head crown and also a few other court people today. Jane Price and Jutta Mason accompanied her. It was a very interesting meeting. A guilty plea has been entered and the case comes up in court on June 13 (Tuesday). That would be a good day for people to come to court.

It sounds as though it's almost certain that this gentleman will be released on that day, with probation conditions. For the safety of kids in this neighbourhood and also other kids elsewhere, it would be very good if he had what's called a "circle of support" -- that's actually a way of both giving an isolated person support in the day-to-day and keeping a very close eye on him so he follows his probation conditions. We have heard of such circles (often church-based) and we'll follow up in the next few days and report back.

From Hugh Kirkegaard, May 25, 2006

With respect to your concern - I would suggest that you call my colleague Harry Nigh, presently the Community Chaplain in Toronto. He is actively involved with Circles and as community chaplain works with all sort of variations on the theme. If he cannot assist you directly he can point you in the right direction. He can be reached at (416) 762-4026 or by e-mail above.

From Harry Nigh to Eileen Henderson, May 26, 2006

I just spoke with Jutta and said that I would forward this information to you because you're the expert! This community is frightened by this man's behaviour and is looking for creative ways of dealing with him.

Would you be able to give her a call and perhaps set up a meeting? If I can help let me know. I may have a lead or two into the Vietnamese faith communities if this progressed to setting up a circle of some kind.

From Jutta Mason to Police Detective Wendy Leaver, June 4 2006,

Mayssan Shuja, who was given your number by Eileen Henderson, told me that you may be willing to meet with a few of us about Tri Van Huynh, aged 41, accused of trying to abduct a ten year old girl at the Manulife Centre last Boxing Day. The child's mother's is cc'd above.

The mother found out after the arrest that this man lives in this neighbourhood, across from the West End Y. Since the police published his photo on their web site, the image was printed off and is posted in many local schools and day cares, as well as at Dufferin Grove Park.

It seems very likely (according to the Crown) that Mr.Huynh will be released soon. We are interested in finding out if we can set up some kind of support circle for him, that helps him connect a little better and also -- very important -- keeps him in view. We also want to find out if there is a Vietnamese social agency that might get involved, and if there might be better housing for him than the squalid, unsupervised rooming house where he presently lives.

The mother has received good support from the police throughout, including the sex crimes section. But what is of interest to the larger community now -- including the affected family -- is how we can help make the follow-up work.

Would you be willing to talk to a few of us, at the park, at a time that works for you and also for the mother, perhaps on one afternoon this week?

From Police Detective Wendy Leaver to Jutta Mason, June 9 2006,

Yes I can meet with you whenever

From Jutta Mason to Eileen Henderson, June 14, 2006

The mother and Mayssan and I went yesterday. John Ball was the Crown, so was another nice woman from the Toronto Police, I forget her name. So was the lawyer and so was the court clerk but no Mr.Huynh. Apparently he's at CAMH and they're not on the regular paddy wagon route so nobody could fit it in to go pick him up.

Beyond that, the assessment had not been completed in time anyway. So we stuck around waiting while the clerk kept on phoning the transport people and getting another negative. We left around noon. Later on the mother got a call saying that the crown had spoken to the judge and the case has been postponed until July 13.

The courts are bleeding money -- eh? All those people sitting around, waiting for Godot.

From Wendy Leaver to Jutta Mason, June 14 2006

I am with Eileen at a Conference in Vancouver. I am available starting next Monday and any day after that to meet with whomever day or night so let me know what is a good time and date.

From Lisa Hutt to the Dovercourt neighbourhood list serve, July 19 2006

I would just like to discourage people from trying to call the Crown.

A. S/he will not call back and you will be frustrated.

B. Crown attorneys are EXCEPTIONALLY busy, all working overtime; talking to you about a case only takes away from the time they can dedicate to their work. (ergo, point A.)

C. Vigilance is important. It is a sad fact of life that this person is not the only danger to our children in our neighbourhood -- he's just the one we know. And the police know. And the prosecutors know. Although I certainly appreciate the updates on his whereabouts.

From Susan Mumford to the Dovercourt neighbourhood list serve, July 20 2006

Yes I know, I'm a lawyer, I know the crown is busy, so am I. Yet I can still listen to calls on work related matters without my day falling apart. I know that things can slip through the cracks as in fact happened with this matter. I know crowns work plea bargains if they think there will not be a public outcry. I've worked plea bargains with some crowns in my day. First question on plea bargains? Public interest/safety/outcry.

I don't think we need to accept this type of insult to our neighborhood and threat to our children's safety quietly because we "understand" the crown is busy and we don't want to bother him/her. I lived at Yonge and Lawrence for a didn't see sex offenders being released accidentally into that neighborhood. Why? Because people got on the phone to their public officials about everything.

Call early! Call often!

Update from Jutta Mason to Wendy Leaver, July 16 2006

Tri Van Huynh's case came up (July 14) and he was released on bail. The victim's mother was there and she told me about the negotiations, which took a while. It sounds like the crown Ball worked hard to get conditions that would work, including getting better housing for Mr.Huynh, where his language might be spoken.

The tricky bit is that Mr.Huynh is currently prohibited from entering this neighbourhood at all, which makes the possibility of a circle of support in this neighbourhood pretty unworkable.

We also have the impression that Mr.Huynh will have fairly minimal supervision while he is out on bail (or after).

We don't want to take up too much of your time -- but do you have any way of finding out whether the arrangements worked out so far, and whether he is meeting his bail conditions?

If Mr.Huynh is given probation, is it likely that he will not have restrictions on where he lives? Because if he then chose to move back into this neighbourhood, perhaps because of its more numerous Vietnamese population, we would revive the circle issue.

From Jutta Mason to the victim's mother, August 14 2006

I finally got hold of the homeless outreach worker who has helped people at the park so much -- she doesn't have anything to do with people in rooming houses nor sexual offenders but she agreed that it's quite possible that the guy will end up out on the street again without adequate support (which of course doubles as supervision).

She says that every jail has a social worker and if you wanted to call that person, they could make a referral to a follow-up program called Homeward (I guess they only follow up if there's a referral).

So one call by you might make a difference. Or it might be impossible by now to track the guy through the system.

Certainly a lot of people look at that picture at the rink. The sad thing is that it's such a tiny picture that it may just lead people to some general "yellow peril" attitude. The much better thing would be to talk to the guy and have him get to be known in the neighborhood where he lives so that he can be made less dangerous by not being invisible. But that's dreaming, I guess.

Response from the victim's mother, August 14 2006

Yes, I would very much want to make such a call. I will have to find out which jail I should contact, now that he is out.

Maybe Wendy would know??

I can also contact the victim witness, but they are pretty useless and only have info on people while in jail....

Update on sentencing date, from the mother, Aug.23, 2006

I believe it is September the 7th and usually they begin at 10

Update on sentencing date, Sept.7 2006

The lawyer did not show up nor call. Everyone else sat around for hours waiting, and went home at 2 p.m.

Sentencing date: Sept.22 2006.

Mr.Huynh had his sentencing today and Judge Kanzan gave him the maximum length of probation available, 3 years, plus various conditions. The little speech given by the judge was pretty thoughtful (and not un-gentle) and we've ordered a transcript for $20.

So now the sequel begins, I guess. The probation officer is Duane English, on 27 Roncesvalles. The social agency with which Mr.Huynh is connected is not in this part of town, so John Ball (Crown) thought that he may be moved to a probation office in the east. That will make it more tricky for us to follow up from here, in any conceivable circle. But maybe he won't be moved.

From our end here, we're wondering: would it be possible for you to help us follow up now, and see if there's any space for our idea? We don't have much to offer, and at this point Huynh is not allowed in the park (because he has boundaries where he can't go). But the Vietnamese man who prints our park newsletter has repeatedly said that he wants to help, and there is an interest here from a few other folks -- plus we could put the word out for other Vietnamese.

The fact is, we may be better than nothing, since Huynh arrived here in 1987 already diagnosed schizophrenic, with no family, apparently never had a job, and may have very few connections. He has now been placed in a Mount Sinai treatment program, but his former psychiatrist is no longer around.

One of the most remarkable things that came out today is that there was a man by the same name, same birth date, convicted of a related crime in Edmonton some years back. But when they checked the fingerprints, they were different. So Huynh has less on his record than what was first thought.

From Eileen Henderson,Sept.23 2008

thanks for the update. We will help in any way possible.

also want to let you know of a Restorative justice event the weekend of the 18th of November. It's in Toronto at Trinity -St Paul's church on Bloor.

Update from Jutta Mason, Oct. 10 2006

Yesterdays' Sun says that Tri Van Huynh was re-arrested at Moss Park playground on Saturday, for violating probation. That was fast. Is there more to know about this? What happens next?

If ordinary probation doesn't deter, what will? Is it time to try arranging the circle?

From Jutta Mason to Eileen Henderson, Nov.1 2006

Our main problem right now is that we don't have any information about whether Mr.Huynh is still in jail -- the devil is in the details, as they say, and we don't have them. We hope to get to the bottom of how to locate this gentleman again and see if any follow-up on our end is possible or welcome.

From Eileen Henderson, Nov.1 2006

do you have a birth date for him and I can track him?

Update from the mother, Nov.1 2006

I never did hear back from Detective Karpow, but I am assuming that Mr.Huynh is still in jail. Otherwise I would have received one of those strange electronic phone messages from victim-witness assistance.

But who knows?

Update from the mother, Nov.13 2006

I do not have the birthdate on file but I do recall that it was one or two days previous to that trial date in september; I believe it may have been the 19th of sept. 1964

Hope that brings up something....

From Jutta Mason to the mother, Nov.13 2006

I called Eileen Henderson today and she said she'd try to ask Wendy Leaver about the whole thing. I think it's also time now to call the court Clerk's office and find out where the transcript is, and the change from the $50 deposit I paid... I think maybe Mayssan knows the court clerk's number, we'll follow it up. If we come up empty, would you know John Balls' number?

From the mother to Jutta Mason, Nov.18 2006

Yes I do have john ball’s #, but he says he doesn't have the birthdate either. As far as he knows, Mr.Huynh is still in jail, because he was talking to kids in the playground and he must have acted suspicious enough for someone to call the police.

About the transcript of the judge's sentencing ...this is ridiculous that the transcripts have yet to appear.

Still no response from Det.Karpow, I've been trying to call Det.Vidday instead.

From Jutta Mason to the mother, Nov.26 2006

Any news from anyone?

From the mother to Jutta Mason, Nov.27 2006

No news...will leave one more message with Vidday, then ???

From Jutta Mason to the mother, Dec.1 2006

1. I called the court reporters' office this morning and a woman called back quite promptly. She said they'll call you in a couple of weeks when the transcript is ready. I'm not sure when, or if, we would have got it if I hadn't called.

Although the court reporter called me back to tell me this, she said she won't call me when the transcript is ready to pick up. Sadly, since your name is on the form, she says she can't call me because you officially paid the $50 deposit. However, one hopes that this does not oblige you to pick up the transcript and refund (if any). When they call, just tell them it will be me who picks it up. Then if you sign a letter of consent, which I will get notarized by our lawyer friend (plus I'll take along the receipt as well) hopefully they'll give me this piece of public information, and I can post it on the park web site, neighbourhood section.

2. I was thinking that it might be good for CELOS to write a letter to the judge and also to the Ministry/police/Victim Assistance/Crown etc. to point out the slippage here. It seems to me it would be good if such a letter came from "the community" and was published on the web site, to enlarge the point of view for them. What do you think?

3. And after that, I guess we'll give this up, and hope that the little guardian angels help other kids be as tough as your kid was.

Feb.2 -- Update. Obtained the sentencing transcript for Mr.Tri Van Huynh. Copied from there:

Justice B.Knazan: Sentence is suspended on each of the three counts concurrent, in view of six and one half month’s pre-trial custody. And you are places on probation for a period of three years. And I will set out the conditions of your probation at the end of my reasons.

The defendant is 42 years old. He is an immigrant to Canada originally from Vietnam, but spent time in a refugee camp in the Philippines before coming to Canada in his twenties. He suffers from schizophrenia. He has a very short but troubling criminal record, which he has added to through the events of the last year.

In 1999 he was convicted of sexual assault. I am informed that the complainant was a young female whose buttocks he touched on the subway. He spent 85 days in pre-trial custody equivalent to a six-month sentence, and was placed on probation for three years, until 2002, which is a probation he seems to have complied with.

In late 2005 he was on bail for a charge, which is not proceeding, but it has required him to comply with the general condition of keep the peace and good behaviour, and the specific addition “Not to have any contact with any female under that age of 18,” because the alleged complainant in that case was a young female.

While on that bail pretty well in the middle of the day, at a busy shopping mall he approached the complainant in this case, and actually held her and tried to entice her to go with him. And she had – although only ten years old, had full presence of mind, would not go with him, reported him, and he was apprehended. However that short incident left a big impression on her, which I will return to, and it is very serious that Mr.Huynh could do that while on that specific bail condition. The charges framed seem to be somewhat archaic, but it amounts to an attempted abduction of a young girl. So those are the facts on those two.

He was released on bail and failed to appear for a court attendance, and that is the third count.

The doctor who has been treating him for schizophrenia gives further troubling information, saying that he lacks insight into his illness and therefore he is hard to treat, and that he is not compliant with taking medication. Crown counsel characterizes this as a conflict of the mental health problems of the defendant with the need to protect the public. I am sorry if I am misquoting. I am paraphrasing. It is a clash of two principles, but the protection of the public must prevail whatever the court’s sympathy for Mr.Huynh and his illness.

And I would like to state in this case, as in every case in which schizophrenia is the diagnosis, that although it is so commonly referred to, the courts receive little expert evidence on exactly what it means in this and other cases, and the court is left supposing that it somehow leads a person who suffers from it to act in a way that is not in character. But that is why I referred to the troubling nature of Mr.Huynh’s short record, because there is a pattern developing here even on two convictions for the substantial charges. And the pattern indicates that young girls are in danger if he does not take his medication.

So really the issue here is whether further jail is required in order to protect the public despite the illness. And – well I will accept the submission that the equivalent of 13 months in prison is proportionate to the offence. And that eventually Mr. Huynh will have to be released so that this has to be dealt with. There is no basis for making probation any longer than the maximum, and in fact if more were available I would impose it, because I think the proposed term can only help Mr.Huynh himself.

I found the victim impact statement, particularly the actual victim’s, very insightful and poignant, and she states that she just wants to be left alone by adults so that she can have a safe childhood. It is unclear whether Mr.Huynh had the benefit of a safe childhood himself. His self-reporting is very spotty. Basically he told Dr.Langevin that he did, although he comes from Vietnam, which one would tend to associate with the war and a bad childhood. His report to Dr.Langevin was that he was not exposed to the war in his country or its sequelae.

His parents were normal. There was never lack of food, clothing, and shelter. He may not have captured the whole of his history, because he did also report that his father spent six months in a mental hospital when he was seven years old, and he spent that time with an aunt or with his father in the mental hospital. But underlying his guilty plea is that he knew what he was doing, and he has taken responsibility for it despite the schizophrenia. And the complainant is absolutely right, she and other young children have the right to be left alone. So for those reasons the probation order will be the maximum.

So Mr.Huynh, you are to keep the peace, be of good behaviour, report to a probation officer today and afterwards as directed. You are not to be in the area defined by Dupont Street to the north, Bathurst Street to the east, Dufferin Street to the west, and Queen Street to the south, unless travelling directly to or from a medical appointment or travelling through in a vehicle. You are not to be in a any schoolyard or playground. And it is up to you to inform yourself of where those are, so that you do not even cross them or use them as shortcuts.

You are not to have any contact directly or indirectly with the complainant or any member of her immediate family, or any child under the age of 18. I think we need an exception for that, Mr.Ball; we do not want to confine him to a small life? Can we qualify, in the presence of an adult?

Mr.Ball (Crown Counsel): I’d accept that, Your Honour.

Justice Knazan: Except in the presence of an adult person. I have to think about that. That is not satisfactory either because we have no control over the other person.

Unless in the presence of an adult person 21 years of age or older, with the prior approval of your probation officer regarding both the child and the adult person. You are to attend – can I have the actual name of the intensive program at the Mount Sinai?

Mr.Nguyen (lawyer for Mr.Huynh): Yes, Your Honour, it’s called the Assertive Community Treatment Team at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Justice Knazan: You are to continue treatment for schizophrenia with Dr.Sam Law, or any doctor to whom he refers you.

There will be an order under section 110 of the Criminal Code prohibiting you from possessing any firearms, ammunitions, explosive substances, or any of the other items listed in my order, for a period of ten years. And do you have any submissions?

Mr.Nguyen: No, Your Honour.

Justice Knazan: If you do not he will be subject to several victim surcharges…

Mr.Nguyen: Your honour…

Justice Knazan: I know his income from the pre-sentence report, I think it would cause undue hardship to him and he is exempt from paying the victim surcharges.

Mr.Nguyen: I would request it to be waived?

Justice Knazan: Yes.

March 24 2007

Open house at Annette Library, hosted by the Citizens' Advisory Committee for the Keele Correctional Facility.

They said that they have 40 beds there. of which up to ten can be taken by sex offenders who are released on parole. Their ratio of parole officers to peopel on parole is 1 officer for 10 people. The less dangerous federal offenders have a ratio of 1 parole officer for 18 people. To compare, the provincial system has 1 probation officer for 90 people. So they have no workers to arrange for circles of support -- which is what we wanted to talk about today.

The group heard us out in a very nice way even though we were telling them about a provincial, not a federal matter. They said it's not common for people to initiate a "circle of support" from the community -- it's more common for people to sign up and get training and then get assigned to a person who needs a circle. They felt that direct contact unmediated by professionals would pose liability issues because probation workers have to keep in mind the safety of their clients. Also, no client has to accept a circle and they can terminate it at any time.

It sounds as though the thing to do is call the probation office where Mr.Huynh's worker is, and talk to them about the dilemma of losing contact. We said that we are very aware that Mr.Huynh can refuse, we just want to know that our offer of support at least got to the probation worker.

The group told us about a Judicial Restraint Order, Sect.810.1 of the Criminal Code. Rev.Harry Nigh joined the group partway through, and he explained that 13 years ago, when this legislation came in, they had thought it a very bad law, against the charter. A person can be taken to jail without being arrested. But since then, they worked with it for sex offenders (e.g.) and they found that it worked very well. (It also allows a suspected terrorist to be locked up for just acting suspicious.) Apparently Julian Falconer tried to challenge the law but the Supreme Court let it stand. The link:

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