R. v. McDonnell (T.E.), (1997) 196 A.R. 321 (SCC)

JudgeLamer, C.J.C., La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court (Canada)
Case DateApril 24, 1997
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(1997), 196 A.R. 321 (SCC)

R. v. McDonnell (T.E.) (1997), 196 A.R. 321 (SCC);

    141 W.A.C. 321

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

....................

Terry McDonnell (appellant) v. Her Majesty The Queen (respondent)

(24814)

Indexed As: R. v. McDonnell (T.E.)

Supreme Court of Canada

Lamer, C.J.C., La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ.

April 24, 1997.

Summary:

The accused pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and was sentenced to a total of 12 months' imprisonment plus two years' probation. The Crown appealed the sentences, claiming the trial judge erred in not finding the sexual assaults to be major sexual assaults and in imposing concurrent sentences.

The Alberta Court of Appeal, in a judg­ment reported 169 A.R. 170; 97 W.A.C. 170, allowed the appeal. The trial judge erred in failing to categorize the first count as a "major sexual assault" with a starting-point sentence of three years and in failing to impose consecutive sentences. The court substituted sentences of four years' impris­onment on the first count and one year (consecutive) on the second, for a total of five years' imprisonment. The accused appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada, McLachlin, La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé and Gonthier, JJ., dissenting, allowed the appeal and restored the sentences imposed by the trial judge. A disagreement over the categori­zation of the assault as the Court of Appeal defined the category was an inap­propriate ground to set aside the trial judge's sentence. The court should not have inter­fered with the length of the sentence or the imposition of concurrent sentences, where the sentenc­ing judge committed no error in principle, considered all relevant factors and the sen­tences, while at the low end of the range, were not demonstrably unfit. The minority held that "the starting-point approach, pro­perly understood and applied, is theoretically sound and marks an advance in the need to find a principled approach to the dual goals of individualization of sentences and the need for uniformity and consistency".

Criminal Law - Topic 4987

Appeals - Indictable offences - Powers of Court of Appeal - Powers re sentencing - [See Criminal Law - Topic 5830 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 5803

Sentencing - Consecutive sentences - [See first Criminal Law - Topic 5932 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 5830

Sentencing - Considerations on imposing sentence - Starting-point sentence - The Alberta Court of Appeal set a three year "starting-point" sentence for "major sexual assaults" in R. v. Sandercock - The Supreme Court of Canada held that a trial judge did not err in principle in failing to categorize a particular sexual assault as a "major sexual assault" - Starting-point sentences were contrary to the principle of deference to a trial judge's discretion in sentencing - There was no legal basis for judicially created categories within a statu­tory offence for sentencing purposes - The court stated that "by creating a species of sexual assault known as a 'major sexual assault'... the Alberta Court of Appeal has effectively created an offence, at least for the purposes of sentencing" - Appellate courts may set starting-point sentences to guide lower courts and the starting-point may be a factor in determining whether a sentence was demonstrably unfit - If there exists wide disparity between a sentence and a "reasonable" starting-point sentence, the starting-point suggests unfitness, but is not determinative - Unless there also exists error in principle, failure to consider relevant factors or overemphasis of factors, a sentence deviating from the starting-point cannot be altered on appeal - See paragraphs 13 to 42.

Criminal Law - Topic 5932

Sentence - Sexual assault - The accused pleaded guilty to two sexual assaults (1986 and 1993) - In 1986, the 29 year old accused assaulted a 16 year old ward placed in his home - As she pretended to sleep on her back, the accused fondled her breasts, undid her jeans, took them off, kissed her buttocks and partially penetrated her vagina - The accused then rolled off her and fell asleep on the floor - In 1993, the 36 year old accused assaulted a 14 year old babysitter who was sleeping - She awoke to find her underwear pulled down, with the accused on top of her fondling her - The babysitter screamed and fled - The trial judge sentenced the accused to a total of 12 months' imprison­ment plus two years' probation, finding neither offence to be a "major sexual assault" as defined in R. v. Sandercock - The Alberta Court of Appeal substituted sentences of four years' imprisonment for the 1986 assault and one year (consecu­tive) for the 1993 assault - The first offence was a major sexual assault (start­ing-point sentence of three years) and, since the assaults were unrelated and sep­arated by seven years, concurrent sentences were inappropriate - The Supreme Court of Canada restored the trial judge's sen­tences - Disagreement over categorization of the assault was not a ground to interfere with the sentence - The Court of Appeal should not have substituted its own sen­tence (length or concurrent vs. consecu­tive) where the trial judge did not err in principle, considered all relevant factors and the sentence was not demonstrably unfit - See paragraphs 1 to 45.

Criminal Law - Topic 5932

Sentence - Sexual assault - [See Criminal Law - Topic 5830 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 6201

Sentencing - Appeals - Variation of sen­tence - Powers of appeal court - [See Criminal Law - Topic 5830 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 6203

Sentencing - Appeals - Variation of sen­tence - Grounds for varying sentence imposed by trial judge - [See Criminal Law - Topic 5830 ].

Cases Noticed:

R. v. Sandercock, [1986] 1 W.W.R. 291; 62 A.R. 382; 40 Alta. L.R.(2d) 265; 48 C.R.(3d) 154; 22 C.C.C.(3d) 79 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 7].

R. v. Shropshire (M.T.), [1995] 4 S.C.R. 227; 188 N.R. 284; 65 B.C.A.C. 37; 106 W.A.C. 37, appld. [para. 14].

R. v. C.A.M., [1996] 1 S.C.R. 500; 194 N.R. 321; 73 B.C.A.C. 81; 120 W.A.C. 81, appld. [para. 14].

R. v. A.B.C. (1991), 120 A.R. 106; 8 W.A.C. 106 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 24].

R. v. S.G.O.R. (1991), 113 A.R. 36 (C.A.), dist. [para. 27].

R. v. W.B.S.; R. v. M.P. (1992), 127 A.R. 65; 20 W.A.C. 65; 73 C.C.C.(3d) 530 (C.A.), dist. [para. 27].

R. v. Spence (S.); R. v. Fraser (D.L.) (1992), 131 A.R. 301; 25 W.A.C. 301; 78 C.C.C.(3d) 451 (C.A.), dist. [para. 27].

R. v. Nicholson (W.L.) (1993), 145 A.R. 262; 55 W.A.C. 262 (C.A.), dist. [para. 27].

R. v. Lapatak (C.R.) (1995), 169 A.R. 385; 97 W.A.C. 385 (C.A.), dist. [para. 27].

Frey v. Fedoruk, [1950] S.C.R. 517, refd to. [para. 32].

R. v. McCraw, [1991] 3 S.C.R. 72; 128 N.R. 299; 49 O.A.C. 47, refd to. [para. 33].

R. v. Gardiner, [1982] 2 S.C.R. 368; 43 N.R. 361, refd to. [para. 36].

R. v. T.; R. v. S. (1983), 43 A.R. 87; 7 C.C.C.(3d) 109 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 38].

R. v. Hessam (1983), 43 A.R. 247 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 57].

R. v. Natanson (1927), 49 C.C.C. 89 (Sask. C.A.), refd to. [para. 63].

R. v. Connor and Hall (1957), 118 C.C.C. 237 (Ont. C.A.), refd to. [para. 63].

R. v. Baldhead, [1966] 4 C.C.C. 183 (Sask. C.A.), refd to. [para. 64].

R. v. Jourdain and Kudyba (1958), 121 C.C.C. 82 (Man. C.A.), refd to. [para. 67].

R. v. Zong (1986), 72 N.S.R.(2d) 432; 173 A.P.R. 432 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 68].

R. v. Muswagon (N.C.) (1993), 88 Man.R.(2d) 319; 51 W.A.C. 319 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 68].

R. v. Post (J.J.) et al. (1996), 72 B.C.A.C. 312; 119 W.A.C. 312 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 68].

R. v. Jackson (D.H.) (1993), 116 Sask.R. 146; 59 W.A.C. 146; 87 C.C.C.(3d) 56 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 68].

R. v. Glassford (1988), 27 O.A.C. 194 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 68].

R. v. Cunningham (G.) (1996), 88 O.A.C. 143; 104 C.C.C.(3d) 542 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 68].

R. v. Jabaltjari (1989), 46 A. Crim. R. 47 (Aust. C.C.A.), refd to. [para. 70].

Reference Re Sections 193 and 195.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1123; 109 N.R. 81; 68 Man.R.(2d) 1, refd to. [para. 88].

R. v. Muise (D.R.) (1994), 135 N.S.R.(2d) 81; 386 A.P.R. 81; 94 C.C.C.(3d) 119 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 100].

R. v. Sand (1991), 120 A.R. 396; 8 W.A.C. 396 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. R.S.B. (1992), 135 A.R. 23; 33 W.A.C. 23 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. R.E.C., [1993] A.J. No. 303 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. D.M.B.; R. v. S.E.W. (1993), 141 A.R. 307; 46 W.A.C. 307 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. Dionne, [1993] A.J. No. 939 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. D.K. (1994), 155 A.R. 269; 73 W.A.C. 269 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. Watson (J.A.) (1994), 157 A.R. 80; 77 W.A.C. 80 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. Wagar (W.) (1995), 174 A.R. 317; 102 W.A.C. 317 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

R. v. Lakotos (J.) (1996), 187 A.R. 45; 127 W.A.C. 45 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 109].

Statutes Noticed:

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982, sect. 7 [para. 80].

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, sect. 271(1), sect. 272(c) [para. 5]; sect. 724(3)(e) [para. 36].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Canadian Sentencing Commission, Sentencing Reform: A Canadian Approach (1987), c. 11, pp. 271 to 272 [para. 73].

Cross, The English Sentencing System (2nd Ed. 1975), p. 148 [para. 69].

Dumont, H., Sentencing (1987), p. 56 [para. 75].

Linden, A.M., A Fresh Approach to Sentencing, in Dumont, H., Sentencing (1987), p. 56 [para. 75].

Marshall, P., Sexual Assault, The Charter and Sentencing Reform (1988), 63 C.R.(3d) 216, p. 222 [para. 73].

Ruby, Clayton C., Sentencing (4th Ed. 1994), pp. 477 to 478 [para. 71]; 479 [paras. 57, 59]; 481 to 482 [para. 72].

Stuart, D., Charter Justice in Canadian Criminal Law (1991), p. 79 [para. 87].

Young, A., The Role of an Appellate Court in Developing Sentencing Guidelines (1988), pp. 6, 8 [para. 63]; 9 to 10 [para. 66]; 98 to 99 [para. 74].

Counsel:

Marvin R. Bloos, for the appellant;

Paul L. Moreau, for the respondent.

Solicitors of Record:

Beresh Depoe Cunningham, Edmonton, Alberta, for the appellant;

Department of Justice, Edmonton, Alberta, for the respondent.

This appeal was heard on December 6, 1996, before Lamer, C.J.C., La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On April 24, 1997, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada was delivered in both official languages and the following opinions were filed:

Sopinka, J. (Lamer, C.J.C., Cory, Iaco­bucci and Major, JJ., concurring) - see paragraphs 1 to 46;

McLachlin, J. (La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé and Gonthier, concurring), dis­senting - see paragraphs 47 to 116.

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