In R. v Stevikova, the accused successfully appealed a sentence imposed after a conviction under the Wildlife Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 488.
The accused was charged and convicted for feeding bears. The Crown and the accused submitted a joint submission for sentencing. Our courts have held that sentencing judges should not depart from a joint submission on sentencing unless agreeing to the joint sentence would put the administration of justice into disrepute.
The summary conviction appeal judge found the sentencing judge committed a number of errors:
- Effectively treated the factual basis of the joint submission as being a starting point for making further factual findings, some of which were derived from the sentencing judge taking judicial notice of facts that ought not to have been the subject of judicial notice.
- Failed to consider the weakness of the Crown's case, and the Crown's acknowledgement the case was weak, and failed to consider the accused's admissions and her role in ensuring a conviction.
- Interestingly, the court also considered in sentencing the volume of work of the courthouse at that time - whether the court was particularly busy. To include that factor was a legal error in sentencing. The volume of work before a particular judge or in a specific courthouse is irrelevant to the determination of sentence.
- Finally, the court erred in applying sentencing principles applicable when sentencing corporations and ensuring that a fine does not become only the "cost of doing business" for a business defendant when sentencing an individual who commits the offence not while engaging in a commercial purpose.
In the context of regulatory offences, this case stands out as an affirmation of the principle that a court ought to give significant, almost dispositive, deference to a joint submission. Indeed, for many of our business clients, we strongly encourage, where appropriate, for our business clients facing regulatory offences to settle using a joint submission, thus increasing our ability to predict the outcome of a sentencing and ensuring that the sentence can be absorbed without destroying or substantially impairing the enterprise.
See my recent Canlii Connects commentary on this case.