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Judicial CP - December 2006

Corpun file 18674

The Hamilton Spectator, Ontario, 5 December 2006


'The last of the old-time judges'

By Barbara Brown
The Hamilton Spectator


Ross Bennett

Ross Taylor Bennett, who became a local magistrate in 1966 and presided in Hamilton's provincial courts for three decades, is remembered as "the last of the old-time judges."

Bennett also had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Canadian Navy. Commodore Bennett was a former base commander of CFB Hamilton and senior officer of Canada's 16 naval reserve units. He was invested in 1977 as Commander of the Order of Military Merit by Governor-General Jules Leger.

Bennett died Nov. 28 at the age of 78. A private funeral has been held. A memorial service was held at HMCS Star on Saturday.

Judge Ross (Buck) Bennett had a droll sense of humour and got along famously with courthouse staff, but was a stern figure on the bench. His reputation for toughness inspired dread in the criminals brought before his court. "We always said he would make somebody walk the plank one day. He ran his courtroom like a military court," recalled veteran CHML radio reporter Bill Sturrup.

Bennett was known as the last judge in Canada to order a penal flogging of a convicted person. On May 15, 1972, he sentenced a 16-year-old youth, who robbed and clubbed a 95-year-old homeowner with a two-by-four, to 10 lashes of the whip.

On hearing his punishment, the teenager leaped from the prisoner's box and made a desperate dash for the door. Sobbing and yelling obscenities, he struggled violently with police officers who tackled him to the floor. After being restrained, the teen was returned to face the rest of his sentence, which totalled 5½ years in prison.

Lawyer Tom Bordonaro said he will never forget the bedlam in the old provincial courtroom in Effort Square when his client bolted for the door. "I looked around and couldn't believe what was happening. I was stunned. "I immediately appealed the sentence to the court of appeal. At the same time, the issue (of corporal punishment) was being debated in Parliament. The story hit national headlines in the newspapers."

Bordonaro's client never did get 10 strokes of the whip. By the time his case reached the Ontario Court of Appeal, the House of Commons passed legislation banning penal flogging in Canada.

PRESS CUTTINGLois Bennett said she believes her husband suspected the youth would not end up being whipped but that his sentence would nonetheless have the desired effect.

The couple was married 52 years and raised four children in Hamilton. Lois said her husband rarely missed dinner with his family despite the demands of being a full-time judge and commander of HMCS Star.


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