Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Moncton Shooter Faces Possibility of Harshest Sentence since Death Penalty

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Moncton Shooter Faces Possibility of Harshest Sentence since Death Penalty

Article excerpt

Justin Bourque faces up to 75 years in prison

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MONCTON, N.B. - When Justin Bourque appears in court Monday, he faces the harshest sentence since the death penalty was abolished for fatally shooting three Mounties and wounding two others in Moncton in early June.

However, legal scholars say it's unlikely the 24-year-old will face the maximum penalty -- 75 years in prison before he is eligible to apply for parole -- given his age and lack of a criminal record.

In early August, Bourque pleaded guilty to three charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

A single conviction for first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence and a ban on applying for parole for 25 years. However, Judge David Smith of the Court of Queen's Bench has said the Crown wants him to use a 2011 amendment to the Criminal Code that allows judges to extend parole ineligibility in the case of multiple murders.

In this case, Smith could decide that the 25-year ineligibility period for each murder conviction should be imposed consecutively, which means Bourque wouldn't be allowed to apply for parole until he was 99 years old.

The Harper government changed the law to eliminate what it called the "volume discount" for multiple murderers.

The law has been used only once since it was changed. In September 2013, a judge in Edmonton sentenced an armoured-car guard to life in prison with no chance at parole for 40 years for gunning down four of his colleagues during a robbery in June 2012.

Travis Baumgartner had pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and a charge of attempted murder.

It was the toughest criminal penalty since Canada's last executions in 1962.

Baumgartner was facing a 75-year parole ineligibility period, but the judge cited mitigating factors, including his age, lack of a criminal record and his guilty pleas, which prevented a prolonged trial.

It's for these same reasons that law professor Isabel Grant believes Bourque will be given a lighter sentence.

"I would be surprised if the court imposed 75 years on someone his age," said Grant, who teaches at the University of British Columbia. …

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