Mischaracterization of a crime as a ‘spree’ is substantial error in principle, appeal allowed: court

Mere proximity in time of a series of crimes not a ‘spree’

Mischaracterization of a crime as a ‘spree’ is substantial error in principle, appeal allowed: court
That a crime is a “spree” is relevant only in transactional totality

The Court of Appeal for Alberta has ruled that the sentencing judge’s mischaracterization of a series of robberies as a single overall transaction or a “spree” was substantial error subject to appellate intervention.

In R v. Lebeuf, 2021 ABCA 322, the respondent was convicted of three counts of robbery, and one count each of possession of stolen credit card, breach of probation, and breach of recognizance. His total sentence was four years and 35 days. In arriving at this sentence, the sentencing judge considered the respondent’s addiction to fentanyl and that the counts of robbery were a “spree” based on totality and the fact that they occurred close in time.

The Crown appealed the sentence, claiming that the sentencing judge erred in characterizing the pre-considered and serious violence-based crimes spread over a period of three weeks as a “spree.”

The Court agreed with the Crown and ruled that the sentencing judge failed to properly apply the totality concept. Based on the evidence presented, the crimes were not impulsive but involved a measure of planning, and the respondent’s behaviour was calculated to intimidate his victims, said the Court. Thus, the sentencing judge erred in treating the robberies as a single overall transaction. Further, the factor of the crime being part of a “spree” is relevant only in transactional totality, which has nothing to do with the respondent’s crimes.

Therefore, the Court increased the total sentence from four years and 35 days to a total of 6.5 years from the date of sentencing.

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