Hilton, Ruel, Beaupré
Application for leave to appeal from the sentence. Granted. Appeal from the sentence. Allowed.
The Crown seeks leave to appeal from a judgment sentencing the respondent to a total of nine years’ imprisonment, to be served concurrently with a seven-year sentence to which he was already subject further to a judgment rendered a few months earlier by another judge, in another file, in connection with entirely separate offences. Those earlier offences pertained to mischief concerning Hydro-Québec’s electricity transportation network (Hydro-Québec file), whereas the prison sentence at issue in this case concerns counts of criminal harassment against public servants and arson. The Crown does not contest the length of the sentence, but only the decision to impose it concurrently with the other sentence rather than consecutively.
The trial judge’s reasons in support of his decision to refuse to order that the sentences at issue be served consecutively to the sentence imposed on the respondent in the Hydro-Québec file are brief and difficult to understand. The fact that the offences at issue were committed before the mischief in the Hydro-Québec file appears to have been an essential reason grounding the judge’s decision, but that is an error in principle. Indeed, the key date for imposing consecutive sentences in separate files is the date of sentencing in the second file. If, on that date, the accused is already subject to another prison sentence, the judge may consider ordering a consecutive sentence pursuant to section 718.3(4)(a) of the Criminal Code (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46). That is the case here. The fact that the respondent had appealed the verdict in the Hydro-Québec file does not change anything. The Court must therefore intervene and determine whether the sentences should be served consecutively or concurrently.
The judge should have ordered that the sentence be served consecutively to the sentence in the Hydro-Québec file. They are the result of entirely separate offences, against new victims, on different dates, and they do not fall within a continuum. In such a case, the general rule is that sentences are imposed consecutively rather than concurrently. This conclusion results in a total of 16 years’ imprisonment, less the period of pre-sentence custody, which remains justifiable in view of the principles of sentencing. The offences committed are serious, and the respondent’s degree of moral blameworthiness is high. He takes no responsibility and is insensitive to the harm suffered by the victims. Such premeditated conduct, which was planned and carried out over a long period out of a thirst for vengeance, must be denounced to deter members of the public from considering such behaviour as a means of protest or as a way to punish public officers through reprisals. Moreover, both parties’ counsel suggested imposing a consecutive sentence. Last, in the very particular circumstances of this case, imposing the nine-year sentence consecutive to the sentence imposed in the Hydro-Québec file is not inconsistent with the principles of proportionality and totality in sentencing.
Text of the decision: Http://citoyens.soquij.qc.ca