Conditional discharge denied to repeat offender who twice attacked women

Appellant failed to prove that convictions would prevent admission to Alberta legal regulator

Conditional discharge denied to repeat offender who twice attacked women

The Alberta Court of Appeal has found that, while an appellant’s previous crime was committed 14 years before his recent convictions, this would not prevent him from being characterized as a repeat offender who should be denied conditional discharge.

In R v. Turner, 2022 ABCA 11, the appellant was convicted of assault with a weapon and of uttering death threats for offences committed in 2018. He was sentenced to concurrent six-month jail terms, which the appellant already served, and a two-year probation order. The appellant, seeking to appeal his sentence, argued that a conditional discharge would be a fit and fair sentence.

The Alberta Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal the appellant’s sentence but dismissed the appeal. The sentencing judge committed no reversible errors, but even if he had, there were no compelling reasons to grant a conditional discharge, which is an extraordinary disposition.

The sentencing judge correctly assessed the aggravating and mitigating factors. The appellate court noted that the sentencing judge appeared to have accorded considerable weight to the mitigating factors, given that a very low sentence was imposed. The sentencing judge expressly acknowledged that the appellant was a member of the Gwich’in First Nation and was abused by his now-deceased alcoholic mother. The sentencing judge was also aware of the appellant’s regret, remorse and efforts toward rehabilitation.

The appellant failed to provide evidence supporting his argument that the convictions would make the Law Society of Alberta less likely to accept him as a student-at-law or as a member, the appellate court held. The appellant alleged possible consequences, but such speculation was insufficient. Regardless of whether a conditional discharge was granted, this would most likely not affect the law society’s ultimate decision, given that the executive director would still review the appellant’s post-crime conduct.

Lastly, the appellate court held that it would be against the public interest to grant the appellant a conditional discharge and to refrain from convicting the appellant. It listed four compelling reasons to deny a conditional discharge.

First, the appellant committed a violent crime and threatened to kill the complainant along with the complainant’s mother and daughter. Second, the appellant had a prior conviction of sexual assault in 2004. Third, the complainant was an Indigenous woman and the appellant’s intimate partner — Indigenous women have disproportionately been the victims of violent crimes. Fourth, the appellant was a mature and educated person, so his crimes could not be attributed to youthfulness, immaturity or the lack of opportunities.

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