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Aboriginal court case could break new ground in Okanagan

A Penticton court judge and lawyers are looking into providing an aboriginal form of justice to an aboriginal woman.
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June 17, 2015 - 12:30 PM

PENTICTON - A woman facing sentencing over a litany of conditional sentence and personation breaches and minor thefts may soon make legal history in Penticton.

Mae Lynnette Postel’s sentencing led both counsel and Judge Gregory Koturbash to look into the possibility of diverting her case to a form of aboriginal justice known as a 'sentencing circle.'

If they are successful, it may be the first sentencing circle in the Okanagan, though they have been used in other parts of the province, including Kamloops.

Postel appeared by video in Penticton court Tues, June 16, on a host of charges stemming from an incident on Feb. 11, 2015, when she was caught speeding on Skaha Lake Road in Penticton. Postel, who was prohibited from driving at the time, used her sister’s driver’s license number and was issued a ticket in her sister’s name.

Investigation revealed Postel's keyword failed to match her sister’s license, and subsequent investigation revealed Postel’s suspended driver’s license.

It was also discovered Postel was on a conditional sentence, which meant she wasn’t to be out of her home at that time of day, except to attend classes at the En’owkin Centre on the Penticton Indian Band reserve.

Police attended the centre, and found she hadn’t attended class. Later that day they spotted her on the street and arrested her.

Crown Prosecutor Catherine Crockett asked Koturbash to consider sentencing Postel to jail for the rest of her conditional sentence — 79 days — noting her long history of personation charges and behaviour continued even while on a conditional sentence.

“My client is 29 years old. This is a perplexing situation,” defence lawyer James Pennington said. "We thought things were going well, and suddenly we’re met with this.”

He described his client as healthy and not on drugs.

“She does well in jail. But we can’t keep her in jail forever. She’s an articulate person — if she can find the right road, she’ll do well," he said.

Judge Koturbash noted Postel’s 'horrendous' upbringing, describing her as the child of residential school survivors. He asked if she was interested in having a second Gladu report prepared, noting her case as having 'the systemic factors aboriginal people suffer from.'

Postel declined, saying nothing had greatly changed in her life to warrant another Gladue report.

Judge Koturbash then asked Postil if she was interested in going to aboriginal court and attending a 'sentencing circle,' to which she said yes.

“We’re breaking some new ground,” defence counsel James Pennington said later. “The judge has participated in a sentencing circle, I haven’t and the prosecutor hasn’t.”

Sentencing circles were part of the aboriginal justice system and had come into practise as a way to accommodate the large per capita percentage of aboriginals who make up the prison population.

“I don’t think we’ve had a sentencing circle in the Okanagan. There is an aboriginal court in New Westminster, but generally the circles are made up of members from the accused’s community,” Pennington said.

With both counsel agreeing to apply for a sentencing circle in Penticton, Postel’s sentencing hearing was adjourned to gather more information and fix a date for further sentencing.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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