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Tom Rees | Criminal Defence Lawyer Winnipeg

Life in Jail Without Parole for 35 Years in PEI


A PEI Court sentenced a man to life in jail without the possibility of parole for 35 years after he plead guilty to one count of 2nd degree murder and one count of first degree murder.

In August 2014, a PEI man entered a residence and shot two people with a handgun. The police later received information that a man confessed to the killings to his brother and sister-in-law.

The two men who died in the attack were a father (68) and his son (39). The double murder turned out to be retribution for an impaired driving accident that occurred in 1970 that killed the convicted man’s sister. The vehicle was driven by the father/grandfather of the victims.

Justice Campbell sentenced the man to a rare sentence of life in prison without parole for 35 years. The Justice interpreted section 745.51 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a section that allows for consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for people previously convicted of murder:

[27]   I note that the provisions of s.745 (b) refer to a person who has “previously been convicted” of murder, whereas, s.745.51(1) refers to someone  “who has already been convicted” of one or more murders.  Again, we are dealing with the question of a prior conviction.   Ordinary rules of statutory interpretation would dictate that when different wording is used in the same statute, a different meaning is intended to be conveyed by each distinct usage. Should a different interpretation be applied to each of those sections?

[28]   Regardless of that difference, s.745.51 differs from s.745(b) in a more substantial way.  It specifies the time frame applicable when considering whether a person is someone  “who has already been convicted of one or more other murders”.  Section 745 (b) does not do that.  Section 745.51 starts with the words, “At the time of the sentencing under s.745″. Whatever length of time may have passed since the first conviction, be it 30 seconds or 30 years,  “At the time of sentencing” for the second conviction, the offender will have already been convicted of another murder.

[29]   Further, s.745.51(3) specifies that s.745.51(1), referring to someone  “who has already been convicted”,  applies to an offender who is convicted of murders committed after December 2, 2011, which is the day that section became law. That further differentiates that section from s.745(b).   It gives the judge the discretion to decide whether the periods without eligibility for parole for each murder conviction are to be served concurrently or consecutively.

Justice Campbell concluded that section 745.51 gave the court discretion to sentence the man to consecutive periods of parole ineligibility in this case.

[30]   Therefore, the question of whether the periods of parole ineligibility are to be served concurrently or consecutively does arise in the circumstances before the Court in this case, notwithstanding the two convictions might occur one minute apart and notwithstanding the events occurred concurrently with each other.  Both convictions relate to murders committed after December 2, 2011 and the offender will “have already been convicted” of one such murder at the time he is sentenced for the second murder.

The court referenced a the case R. v. Baumgartner, 2013 ABQB 761, a case out of Alberta in which an armoured car security guard shot four of his co-workers, killing three of them. He plead guilty to two counts of 2nd degree murder, one count of 1st degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The court in that case sentenced him to life in jail without parole for 40 years, finding that it had discretion to deliver a sentence of consecutive periods of parole ineligibility.

The court also discussed R. v. Bourque, 2014 NBQB 237 from New Brunswick. In that case a man plead guilty to murdering three RCMP officers, and attempting to murder two others. The Crown argued for life without parole for 75 years, 25 years for each of the 1st degree murder convictions. Defence argued that 50 years was sufficient. The court ultimately sentenced him to life without parole for 75 years.

After discussing the case law above, and after addressing the different sentencing factors in section 718 of the Criminal Code, the PEI Supreme Court sentenced the man to life without parole for 35 years. He received life without parole for 10 years for the 2nd degree murder, and life without parole for 25 years, to be served consecutively, for the 1st degree murder. The man will be released when he is 81 years old with good behaviour.

The current Government is planning to introduce life without parole. It could be argued that life without parole for 75 years is no different in effect than life without parole, and that it effectively already exists.




*note: The information on this page is not legal advice.

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