Aaron Webster was beaten to death.

This is heinous. When the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, it’s hard to just “move on.” Aaron Webster was repeatedly beaten on the head and upper body with a baseball bat or pool cue. He was found naked except for his hiking boots.

Two years after a man went to jail as a young offender for the deadly beating of a gay man, a judge freed him Wednesday and urged the victim’s family to try to forgive the killer.

Judge Valmond Romilly of provincial youth court said the 21-year-old man now needs help to salvage some of his life as he enters adulthood. “The sole preoccupation at this stage should be to help the youth, who committed a terrible offence, while still a youth,” Romilly said.

The man’s release is mandatory and allows him to serve the last one-third of his sentence in the community. He was given three years in prison for manslaughter after admitting to his part in the fatal beating of Aaron Webster, 41, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park in 2001.

A group of then-teenagers came upon the naked Webster in a place in the park where gay men often meet for sex. They chased him to his car, where he was beaten to death.

Just before he read out the man’s conditions for release, Romilly said to family members sitting in the gallery that it was “time to move on and forgive.” He then quoted William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”

Fred Norman, who is Webster’s cousin, was in the court and said he has a difficult time forgiving the young man. “Two years isn’t long enough,” he said. “It’s gone way too fast. In this young man’s case it should be a little bit longer sentence for a human life.”

You can read the entire court transcript here.

Thanks to Blender Sean in Dallas for the pointer.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding