R v Paquette, 2020 ABPC 173

The Court here sought to impose a tailor-made sentence that considered the circumstances of the offence and of the Indigenous offender. In doing this, the Court weighed these factors to balance maintaining the protection of society by mitigating the risk of further violence while also arriving at a sentence that adopts rehabilitative measures to provide some prospects for reducing the risk of the accused to re-offend.

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Mr. Paquette entered a guilty plea to four charges emerging from two separate incidents. The first incident involved his girlfriend at the time. The two were drinking together when Mr. Paquette became angry and accused his girlfriend of lying. He then proceeded to beat and choke her severely. Shortly after, Mr. Paquette attempted to phone his cousin, and when they did not answer, he told his girlfriend that she was lucky, as his cousin was going to place her in the trunk of his car and bury her alive. In relation to this incident, Mr. Paquette entered guilty pleas to threats causing death, intimidation through threats of violence, and assault, causing bodily harm. Five months after this incident, Mr. Paquette was involved in an altercation with a stranger. Mr. Paquette and the stranger were standing on a train station platform when Mr. Paquette, unprompted, pushed the stranger off the platform. The victim was assisted by two other men back onto the station platform and was subsequently pushed off again by Mr. Paquette. After the victim fell to the ground, Mr. Paquette stomped on his head and rendered him unconscious. Regarding his involvement in this incident, Mr. Paquette pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

This decision deals with setting a fit and appropriate sentence for Mr. Paquette for these crimes and in these circumstances. He is a status member of the Skatin Nation located in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Mr. Paquette’s mother, is a member of the Skookumchuk First Nation. In considering Mr. Paquette’s circumstances, the Court had the benefit of referring to three documents: a Gladue Report; a Pre-sentence Report; and a Pre-Sentence Psychiatry Assessment. These reports revealed that his childhood was complex and riddled with instability and trauma. He does not have a relationship with his father, and both his mother and grandmother (who acted as his primary caregivers) had issues with alcohol. Mr. Paquette says alcohol use has affected his life in many ways, and he too has dependency issues with it. Throughout his childhood, he experienced continuous physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The reports also revealed that Mr. Paquette has some cognitive difficulties, that were in part caused by a brutal assault that occurred when he was 11 or 12 years old.

The Court found that in balancing Gladue factors, and all of the principles of sentencing applicable here, 18 months for the aggravated assault, and six months consecutive for the assault and threats involving Mr. Paquette’s girlfriend, as well as a two-year term of probation would constitute as a fit sentence here. In providing further insight into this decision, the Court stated that the custodial sentence of 24 months gives effect to denunciation, deterrence, and concern for public safety. Whereas a period of two years of probation with conditions is intended to address the rehabilitative purposes of sentencing.

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