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Sentencing hearing begins for woman who attempted murder in B.C. courtroom

Click to play video: 'B.C. Supreme court attacker sentencing hearing'
B.C. Supreme court attacker sentencing hearing
WATCH: The sentencing hearing has begun for a woman who attacked a rival with a hammer and a fish knife inside B.C. Supreme Court. Rumina Daya reports – Nov 29, 2023

WARNING: This story contains details, including photo and video, that may be disturbing to some readers.

The sentencing hearing has begun for a woman who tried to kill a rival inside a B.C. courtroom with a hammer and fish knife more than two years ago.

Catherine Shen, 56, appeared in Vancouver’s B.C. Provincial Court on Wednesday, convicted of four counts — including attempted murder — in the attack on Jing (Becky) Lu on May 25, 2021. Lu was seriously injured in the shocking incident, which unfolded as she and Shen were locked in a civil dispute in court together.

“It is Ms. Shen’s hatred of Ms. Lu that motivated her and she did it in a courtroom which is the seat, in our society, the very forum where people come to resolve differences peaceably,” Crown prosecutor Jacinta Lawton told the court on Wednesday.

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“This person is being sentenced as a lucky murderer and it’s just by sheer luck, and perhaps to be fair to Ms. Lu, her bravery and tenacity, in warding off Ms. Shen’s attack, that she did not die.”

The Crown is seeking 16 to 18 years behind bars for Shen — the highest sentence Lawton said she has ever asked for. The defence, meanwhile, is arguing for six years.

Click to play video: 'Woman charged in Vancouver courtroom stabbing appears in court'
Woman charged in Vancouver courtroom stabbing appears in court

On the day of the attack, Shen entered the court carrying the two weapons in her purse. Bag checks and metal detector screenings are not standard at the courthouse, and no one checked the contents of her purse.

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Shen then stabbed Lu multiple times inside the courtroom where the matter was being held, managing at least 10 downward blows with each weapon according to evidence heard at trial. Lu suffered wounds to the lung and heart area and was hit over the head with the hammer.

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As the attack unfolded, court sheriffs rushed to her side and were able to disarm her and take her into custody.

Catherine Shen seen being detained after attempting to kill a rival in a B.C. courtroom. B.C. Supreme Court

The gruesome attack was the capstone to a long and acrimonious dispute between the two women, involving a decade-long verbal battle over social media. They had met on a Chinese website meant to help new immigrants connect and were set to begin a contempt of court hearing when the attack took place.

In delivering her verdict in the case, Justice Catherine Denhoff found Shen — a first-time offender — guilty of attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon.

Denhoff rejected a defence argument that Shen was not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder. Nevertheless, the sentencing hearing had been put on hold for Denhoff to hear additional evidence from a psychiatrist.

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A psychiatrist has now said Shen showed no remorse or empathy for the victim.

While she was depressed and used “liquid courage” in the form of alcohol, stress should not be considered for a lesser sentence, the Crown argued. Lawton suggested Shen get credit for her three years and nine months in custody.

A photo shown at trial shows a blood-covered knife allegedly used in an attack on a woman inside a Vancouver courtroom on May 25, 2021. Submitted

The defence has not yet made arguments as to why a six-year sentence is more appropriate in the case.

The hearing comes after a tearful victim impact statement from Lu in the spring.

“Even when I was lying on the court floor bleeding, she [Shen] was saying, ‘It’s her fault. It’s her fault,’” she told the court in May.

“Until today, I am still shocked and fail to understand how a civil case evolved into an event that almost took my life.”

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— with files from Rumina Daya

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