Court of Appeal of Quebec

Vera Camacho v. The Queen


Vauclair, Cotnam, Moore

Application for leave to appeal from the sentence. Granted. Appeal from the sentence. Dismissed.

The appellant pleaded guilty to 20 sexual offences against 9 victims, 7 of whom were minors. He had targeted mainly minors, offering them well-paid work as receptionists or masseuses in a massage parlour, with the purpose of sexually assaulting them and recruiting them for prostitution. At trial, the sentences suggested by the parties differed only as to whether the sentences should be consecutive or concurrent. The respondent suggested 15 years’ imprisonment, applying the totality principle to concurrent and consecutive sentences. The appellant asked that all the sentences be concurrent and suggested a sentence of 5 years.

Applying consecutive sentences for each victim, the trial judge determined a 38-year prison sentence, which she reduced to 15 years, less the equivalent of 60 days of pre-sentence custody. The appellant argues that the obligation to impose consecutive sentences pursuant to s. 718.3(7)(b) of the Criminal Code (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46) (Cr. C.) is contrary to s. 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (R.S.C. 1985, app. II, No. 44, Schedule B, Part I). He also argues that the judge erred in law when she applied the principle of proportionality and totality in sentencing.

A judge tasked with sentencing has the discretion to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences. Section 718.3(7)(b) Cr. C. removes this discretion with regard to sexual offences against children. At the hearing, the respondent and the Attorney General of Quebec conceded that this provision is constitutionally invalid. Their respective positions are in line with the law set out in R. v. Nur (S.C. Can., 2015-04-14), 2015 SCC 15, SOQUIJ AZ-51166481, 2015EXP-1133, J.E. 2015-622, [2015] 1 S.C.R. 773, and in R. c. Bissonnette (C.A., 2020-11-26), 2020 QCCA 1585, SOQUIJ AZ-51725265, 2020EXP-2791. Section 718.3(7)(b) should be declared invalid and unconstitutional because it is contrary to s. 12 of the Charter.

It was open to the judge to consider imposing consecutive sentences subject to the totality principle, and the appellant has shown no error justifying appellate intervention. In this case, the appellant was in his thirties, whereas the victims were adolescents or very young women. On the scale of objective seriousness, the sexual assaults committed are some of the most serious, due in particular to the ages of the victims and the fact that sexual relations were unprotected. The victims’ statements, the contents of which are not contested, report the serious repercussions of the victimization these young women suffered. Finally, the case law cited by the appellant does not convince the Court that the sentence was unfit.

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