Leave to appeal granted and appeal allowed from sentence. Pursuant to s 687(1)(a) of the Criminal Code, the sentence of an Indigenous offender for two robberies is varied. It is ordered he serve concurrent sentences of five years in relation to each of these two crimes, with a global sentence of eight years less credit for time spent on remand.
This appeal concerns the proper sentencing of an accused who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder [“FASD”] and whose personal circumstances called for application of the principles set out in R v Gladue,  2 CNLR 252 [“Gladue”]. The offender, who is of Indigenous ancestry, was convicted of being a party to two armed robberies. He also pleaded guilty to several other offences. For all of these crimes, he was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, which was reduced by the sentencing judge to a global sentence of ten years less credit for time spent on remand.
The offender had an extensive criminal record with over 70 convictions that pre-dated these matters. A Gladue report was prepared that recounted the history of his family and community. The extreme poverty, minimal educational opportunities, and overcrowded and deficient housing experienced by the offender’s parents cannot be captured in a few words, but the outcome was a life of family dysfunction, substance and alcohol abuse, and violence.
The offender’s grounds of appeal must be examined in light of the applicable standard of review. He took the position in this Court, that the judge committed several errors in principle and, in any event, that the global sentence is demonstrably unfit.
The factors indicated the offender has reduced moral blameworthiness. These factors were overwhelming and their connection to the offences cannot be credibly denied. This is not a case where the connection between the “systemic and background factors that have contributed significantly to [the offender’s] circumstances, and to his appearances before the criminal courts of this province” is elusive. It is impossible not to see a direct connection between these factors and the specific crimes for which the offender was being sentenced. Cause and effect are not required, but the facts of this case come as close as most any situation could (R v Ipeelee,  2 CNLR 218). The Court determined the judge erred in principle by failing to account for the systemic and background factors (including FASD) that was earlier identified as having contributed significantly to the offender’s circumstances and his commission of these offences.
This Court cannot interfere with a sentence simply because a judge has committed an error in principle. It must also conclude that the error had an impact on sentence (R v Lacasse, 2015 SCC 64). In this matter, the impact of the judge’s error is evident from his treatment of the precedent he relied upon to identify a fit sentence. This Court has no hesitation in concluding that the failure to account for the offender’s reduced moral culpability had a decisive impact on the sentence the judge imposed in this case.
The judge determined that a fit sentence for each robbery was seven years’ imprisonment, running consecutively. In connection with a housebreaking offence, it was determined that a fit sentence to be two years’ imprisonment, consecutive to the sentences for the two robberies. It was determined that a fit sentence for the remaining crimes was 12 months, concurrent on all those offences, but consecutive to the robbery and housebreaking offences. All of this would result in a combined sentence of 17 years, which the judge reduced to a global sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. This was achieved by directing that the robbery sentences be served concurrently, not consecutively.
Although this Court is to sentence afresh, the only point of criticism that can be offered to the judge’s sentencing decision is the failure to account for the offender’s reduced moral culpability when it came time to fix a sentence. Considering the guidance provided by the case law, and given the offender’s reduced moral culpability through the appropriate assessment of his FASD and other Gladue considerations, a fit sentence in this case should remain within the range identified in previous case law, but at its low end. A sentence of five years’ imprisonment on each robbery conviction will fall at the low end of the range (R v Kirklon, 2015 SKCA 67), properly denounce the offender’s unlawful conduct, and not separate him from society for longer than necessary. Expert evidence suggests that there are ways the public could be protected by managing the offender in the community once he has served his sentence.