R v Awasis, 2020 BCCA 23

Appeal dismissed. Public safety must be heavily weighed when sentencing a dangerous offender. Despite the consideration of Gladue factors of the Indigenous offender, his patterns of conduct and the factual findings of treatment would have made a finding of dangerousness inevitable.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

The offender was designated to be a dangerous offender and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment after being convicted of two sexual offences. He is Indigenous and had an “unfortunate, tragic background.” He became involved with the criminal justice system when he was 13 years old, and he has continued to violently and sexually reoffended in the community. He has severe addictions to alcohol and drugs and has suffered from a lot of trauma, including sexual assault. The offender also has been diagnosed with a severe personality disorder which has contributed to the risk he poses to public safety.

Since the appellant was designated as a dangerous offender, indeterminate detention was available as a sentencing option under s 753(4) of the Criminal Code. To properly exercise discretion under that section, the Court must impose the least intrusive sentence required to reduce the public threat posed by the offender to an acceptable level (R v Boutilier, 2017 SCC 64). To do so, the sentencing judge must conduct an individual assessment of all relevant circumstances and consider the sentencing objectives set out in ss 753(4), (4.1) and 718–718.2, including those developed for Indigenous offenders. An offender who is found to be a dangerous offender has the right to appeal his designation and sentence on any ground of law or fact or mixed law and fact as per s 759(1). The offender applied to submit fresh evidence on appeal, but it was denied due to the credibility and lack of perceived effect on the outcome.

The offender argued that the trial judge failed to take into account evidence of his treatability at the designation stage, which would constitute a reversible error. Consideration of treatability is relevant at both the designation and sentencing stage. When it came to the trial judge’s analysis at the designation stage, the Court found that treatability was not considered. Nonetheless, the offender’s patterns of conduct and the factual findings of treatment would have made a finding of dangerousness inevitable. At the sentencing stage, the trial judge found a lack of evidence that the offender’s risk to the community could not be managed which was upheld by the appellant court.

The offender also argued that the trial judge failed to give a tangible effect to Gladue factors when determining his sentence, which resulted in a disproportionate sentence. The Court acknowledged that it is necessary to look at the whole picture (including Gladue considerations). Still, the sentencing lens for a dangerous offender is constrained as there is an emphasis on public safety which narrows the options available to a sentencing judge. The trial judge recognized that the offender’s Gladue factors reduced his moral blameworthiness; however, his repeated history of reoffending and failure to address the issues that contributed to his criminal conduct made the need to protect the public paramount. It was decided that the trial judge adequately considered the offender’s Gladue factors and overall, the indeterminant sentence that was imposed was acceptable to the Court.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *