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posted May 18, 2006

A Day In Court Re: Attempted Abduction

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.


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