Nadeem Jiwa was sentenced to 12 years this morning in Newmarket Courts, in the death of Detective - Constable Rob Plunkett who was killed in the line of duty. His widow Sonja spoke briefly to the media as did the York Regional Chief of Police Eric Jolliffe.
Credits: STAN BEHAL/QMI AGENCY
Nadeem Jiwa, the airbag thief convicted of manslaughter in Plunkett's death, has lost an appeal of his sentence and must do the dozen years behind bars he was given in 2011. No more excuses, no more stalling, no more whining. He must do his time.
For Amanda Plunkett, the good news came a day after a grim anniversary - Aug. 7 marked five years since her vibrant father was senselessly killed in the line of duty. From that day of horror, there have been so many difficult stages for the family to endure - Jiwa's preliminary hearing, the trial, a shocking verdict that came back not as murder but manslaughter, and then news that still not satisfied, he was appealing his sentence.
But now, finally, an end.
"It's been hanging over our heads," explained Plunkett's 22-year-old daughter, who is working this summer as an assistant youth probation officer. "We've been waiting for this decision and we can all rest easy now. We're relieved that this last little thing is over now. It's that last bit. There's nothing more he can do."
In a judgment released Wednesday, the Ontario Court of Appeal found Justice Michelle Fuerst's sentence was on the "very high end" for a youthful, first-time offender, but contrary to what his lawyers had argued, it was not demonstrably unfit.
"Police officers carry out an essential and responsible role in society," wrote Justice Eileen Gillese on behalf of a three-judge panel, quoting an earlier decision. "When a police officer is killed in the execution of duty, the community is understandably outraged. In imposing sentence, it is appropriate to reflect society's revulsion for this aspect of the offence."
In the early morning hours of that August day in 2007, 19-year-old Jiwa was on bail facing airbag theft charges and was out well past the 1 a.m. curfew when he was supposed to be tucked in at his mother's home. Instead, he was out with a friend in a Markham, Ont., neighbourhood, stealing a car and valuable airbags. Plunkett , 43, was part of an undercover surveillance unit watching Jiwa and his partner when they were given the order just before 5 a.m. to move in and make the arrests.
With the cops screaming, "Police, police," his partner in crime quickly surrendered, Not Jiwa. He jumped into his stolen gold Honda and threw it into reverse, crushing Plunkett against a tree. And even as the father of three lay collapsed on the ground, the thief kept on reversing. When his car was finally rammed to a stop, Jiwa tried to take off on foot.
He later insisted at his trial that hitting Plunkett had been an accident and he didn't know he was a police officer trying to arrest him.
Charged with first-degree murder, Jiwa was convicted by a jury of the lesser offence of manslaughter in 2011 and sentenced to 12 years in prison and a 10-year driving ban when he's released. In May, Jiwa's lawyers went to the appeal court to argue the sentence was too harsh for a first-offender with genuine remorse.
The learned judges disagreed.
"This was a very serious crime," wrote Justice Sarah Pepall. "Detective Plunkett was killed in the line of duty. His family and colleagues have been devastated by his death. I recognize that Mr. Jiwa was only 19 years of age at the time of the offence, had no previous record, showed some remorse and the killing was involuntary. Nonetheless, the offence was committed while he was on bail for pending air bag theft charges; he was driving a stolen vehicle having spent several hours stealing air bags; and he was in violation of his curfew."
The top court's decision was applauded by John Miskiw, Plunkett's friend and head of the York police association. "Sonja Plunkett and her children deserve some closure to the court process."
But, of course, 12 years doesn't mean 12 years at all and the family will soon have the parole system to confront: Given two-for-one credit for the almost four years he spent in custody, Jiwa has only three years left on his sentence.