No special treatment

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On Thursday, Jack Tobin got full parole, a little more than a year after he was sent to jail. Former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin’s son was serving a three-year sentence for his role in the death of Alex Zolpis, 24,who was killed in an icy Ottawa parking garage while an impaired Tobin spun doughnuts in a pickup truck.

You knew it was going to happen the moment Tobin got parole: Internet comment sites across the country began to fill with comments, many of them suggesting that Jack Tobin, 26, got some kind of special deal.

It’s a very easy charge to make, especially from behind the comfortable anonymity of an online comment.

And people are welcome to their opinions — but at the same time, people can be wrong.

Tobin’s sentence — and the amount of time he served before parole — did not represent preferential treatment at all. Both were directly in the middle of the range of sentences handed out for such offences. The sentence was based on the analysis of penalties other drivers received in the past for similar crimes, and parole after serving one-third of a sentence is absolutely standard in this country.

It’s hard to say just what it is that motivates people to suggest the sentence was anything out of line, simply because of Tobin’s family and in the absence of any facts to support their argument.

It is true that the well-off can get different treatment in our justice system, in part because they can afford to get the most skilled — and commensurately expensive — legal help available.

But beyond that, this is not a case that smacks of special treatment in any way.

One thing’s for certain: Jack Tobin has probably been publicly shamed more than any young man in a similar position would be.

When he received day parole — on the same sort of terms as any other first offender — it was national news. Now that he has received full parole, it’s national news all over again. Few other Canadians face the same scrutiny — certainly, they don’t face the sort of public examination that Tobin has at every stage of his charges, guilty plea and conviction.

There are very few convicted drivers who face headlines when they are released on parole. Even a seasoned court reporter would be hard put to point out the last such story.

There’s no easy answer for the cold hard facts of the case: Jack Tobin will get a chance to live his life, while Alex Zolpis will not.

If people have a problem with how Tobin was treated, then they have a problem not with his treatment, but with the law itself — and if there is widespread disapproval, it is that law that should be dealt with differently.

Jack Tobin gets to live with the fact that he killed a good friend as a result of drunken foolishness.

Anyone who thinks that is something easily forgotten or glossed over is hard-hearted indeed.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • EdB
    October 09, 2012 - 15:30

    Jack Tobin did a stupid thing as do a number of young people. Having cost his friend his life he confessed and served his time. I suspect he has learned his lesson so let's leave him alone to live what will hopefully be a productive life in the future.

    • Eli
      October 10, 2012 - 11:53

      If i'm not mistaken Jack didn't "learn from his mistakes", hewas in trouble with the law before that incident. And if as the author of the letter says his sentence in in the middle range for offences for this type of crime we can thank grubby lawyers and sooky judges for that.

  • Fintip
    September 30, 2012 - 22:06

    Absent any evidence of favouritism (which only a detailed analysis of comparable crimes would reveal), we must assume there was none. That said, I find this editorial uncharacteristically naive and simplistic. The Telegram would have us believe that the well heeled and well connected in our society receive better treatment under our justice system only insofar as they can afford better legal representation. Anyone who has followed politics and the administration of justice in this province - and more particularly the intermingling of the two - will know this premise to be false. Our history is littered with examples of special treatment afforded to politicians, their families, their friends and their wealthy supporters. Where ordinary folk would find themselves in prison, the rich and famous wouldn't even find themselves in court for the same transgression. This was so common and well known during the Smallwood era that it is hardly necessary to offer specifics. It became less common in the ensuing decades but has nevertheless persisted right up to the present day. Mind you, the perversion of justice is more likely to occur during the investigative and charging stages than in front of the bench. Though we like to think otherwise, madame justice is really not blind to the influence of class, wealth, and political clout. She tends to peek out from under that blindfold whenever it suits her. As previously noted, none of this is to imply that Jack Tobin got any less or more than he deserved. His offence did not take place in this province and was mitigated to some degree by the fact that his victim bore some shared responsibility. Whatever we might think of Brian Tobin as a politician - or as a person for that matter - it should not preclude us from showing some empathy for Jack Tobin. As the history of politics in this province also shows, the offspring of prominent politicians haven't always fared well in that very public, highly charged and overly artificial environment in which they are raised. But what this case does demonstrate - and what the Telegram so clearly failed to recognize - is just how regressive and counterproductive are the"'hang'em high" policies of the Harper government that would see more Jack Tobins incarcerated for longer periods of time. Somehow it looks better on the scruffy looking character from a poor part of town than the ex-premier's son neatly clad in an expensive three piece suit.

    • Eli
      October 10, 2012 - 16:00

      Fintip, you're a contridiction if ever there was one. So what's your take as sufficent incarceration for wrecklessly (and selfishly) taking a life? And please spare mef this "young man has a life to live" garbage. He's a spoiled punk!

  • Jennifer
    September 30, 2012 - 19:35

    The young man has to live with this for the rest of his life, if I'm not mistaken, even though his father is who he is, the man deserved the same treatment as anyone else. I work in the justice field and have seen many injustices done, however this isn't one of them. Let young Tobin live his life..he done his time and I'm sure still finds it had to sleep at night....all I hope is that he has learned from this!

  • Eddy from Accounting
    September 30, 2012 - 11:41

    One thing is certain, Jack Tobin's sentence will always pail to that imposed on Alex Zolpis and his family. Not sure how to remedy that.

  • Pearl Bishop
    September 30, 2012 - 07:26

    Good grief, I cannot believe I took the time to read this article. I would have thought for a moment that this article was written by good old Brian Tobin, the dad, himself. The reason Jack Tobin has been publicly shamed more than any other individual in a similar position is because his actor father was, for a short period of time, the former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Jack Tobin has been in trouble before because of his irresponsible actions due to his drinking. So please don't tell me that I may be wrong by saying that wealth and political influence did not have anything to do with Jack's special treatment under the justice system. It's also interesting that currently the PC's have a bill in the House of Commons to rescind pardons. Bottom line, Jack's family is wealthy with a lot of political pull and he got another break. You are the hard-hearted one who thinks that this is acceptable. Anyone else very seldom or never receive pardons because they have no wealth or political pull. Thank you. Pearl Bishop (real name)

  • David
    September 29, 2012 - 14:25

    Nope, no special treatment there.....Straight face. Straight face. Hold it...hold it. Good job.

  • no justice
    September 29, 2012 - 13:35

    and you can be certain a full pardon is coming soon. WHAT A JOKE !

  • no justice
    September 29, 2012 - 13:23

    and you can be certain that a pardon is coming soon. WHAT A JOKE !

  • saelcove
    September 29, 2012 - 09:24

    There is a law for the wealthy and another law for everyone else always been that way

    • Gerald
      September 30, 2012 - 08:39

      Jack Tobin didn't get any breaks nor did he look for any. he remoursefully admitted his guuilt and took the punishment handed down by the courts like a man.He served his time and is now released with a shame that will never wash off Time to leave him alone and get on with his life.

    • david
      September 30, 2012 - 18:24

      When you're caught red-handed, there's not much that's left up to you is there?....congratualte him for his sense of responsiblity all you want, but that is pure, possibly partisan, revisionist BS.