OTTAWA — The Supreme Court has ruled that judges can hand out lighter sentences to offenders who have been abused by police.
But, in a decision released Thursday, the high court said it would take an extraordinary case to allow judges to go below the mandatory minimum sentences set out in law.
The ruling focused on the case of an Edmonton man whose ribs were broken as officers arrested him for drunk driving after a high-speed chase.
The justices voted 9-0 to uphold an Alberta Court of Appeal decision that imposed the mandatory minimum sentence for drunk driving on Lyle Marcellus Nasogaluak.
And while the top court ruled that the abuse Nasogaluak suffered wasn’t enough to skirt the minimum sentence, both his lawyer and at least one legal expert say it’s important the justices left the door open to that possibility.
“In some exceptional cases, sentence reduction outside statutory limits . . . may be the sole effective remedy for some particularly egregious form of misconduct by state agents,” wrote Justice Louis LeBel.
He pointed out that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to create respect for the law, as well as to maintain a just, peaceful and safe society. He said this can apply to both the actions of the offender and the state.
“The sentencing process includes consideration of society’s collective interest in ensuring that law enforcement agents respect the rule of law and the shared values of society.”
Court heard Nasogaluak was beaten up after leading officers on a chase that ended near Leduc, Alta. He was punched in the head and the back as police tried to wrestle him from his car to the ground and place him in handcuffs.
Although Nasogaluak was moaning and crying, the officers did not try to get him medical help.
After he was released from custody he went to a hospital and was rushed into emergency surgery for a collapsed lung caused by several broken ribs.