Gas Busters Part 80: Observations from the Reading of the Sentence

Here are a few quick reactions to the sentence handed down this morning to David Livingston of 4 months imprisonment plus 12 months probation which includes 100 hours community service.

Overview remarks:

Every one of the rulings of Justice Lipson in this case — indeed all of the comments that I saw from him throughout the trial — seemed to be solidly logical, consistent with the facts, fair, and reasonable. It was emotionally moving for me to hear judge’s remarks today specifically about the responsibilities of the judiciary toward the preservation of our democratic rights. More on the sentencing decision in a moment.

The OPP distinguished itself with exemplary service over course of the Ontario Liberal gas plant scandal.

As Livingston was lead from the courtroom to jail by the constable, he made a downcast nod to his many supporters and family members in the court. It was the only expression of emotion I saw from him over the course of the trial. (I attended most of it, and all the rulings, but missed several days.)

The team of Crown attorneys made a grave error in positioning their computer forensics evidence so that the defence could have it thrown out. The loss of that evidence played a key role in the acquittal of Laura Miller and lessening the overall conviction and sentence against Livington.

It felt to me as if the spectre of Dalton McGuinty haunted the entire proceeding. Considering what an exemplary career and character Livingston displayed before coming into contact with McGuinty, and the evil acts Livingston committed on behalf of McGuinty, it seems to me that Livingston was infected with malice by his boss.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner did outstanding work on the gas plant matters, both in reporting and testimony to the Justice Policy Committee. I don’t understand why none of this valuable work was referenced in the trial.

I have made remarks in this series before about the debt of gratitude that Ontario citizens owe to many outstanding provincial civil servants involved in the gas scandal, starting with former cabinet secretary Peter Wallace. I won’t repeat myself except to point out that the efforts of many civil servants were referenced in the sentencing decision.

More detailed comments on Lipson’s sentencing decision:

When I get the written decision, I will be posting it in this series. When the exact words are available, I’d invite folks to search the phrase “so pressing” and to review Lipson’s passage on democracy leading up to it. That is the section of the decision that I found particularly moving and my notes in that area are blurred.

Only a few sentences into the decision, Lipson started what became a long series of comments on the importance of Freedom of Information rights of citizens. Particularly since one of my FOI requests and appeals became central to this criminal case, I am extremely appreciative of Lipson’s comments.

Lipson seemed particularly careful in how he applied considerations of the power and public trust that Livingston wielded and abused in office.

Another area of Lipson’s reasoning that seems especially powerful drives off his recognition that detecting offences like this is extremely challenging work. I was heartened that Lipson considered this factor to weigh in favour of incarceration.