Saskatchewan court dismisses La Loche school shooter’s appeal of sentence

REGINA — Saskatchewan’s highest court has dismissed a sentencing appeal by a young man who fatally shot four people and wounded seven others in a northern community.

The shooter was weeks shy of turning 18 when he killed two brothers at their home and a teacher and a teacher’s aide at the La Loche high school in 2016.

He was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree murder and attempted murder.

The shooter was looking for a youth sentence.

In a 2-1 decision, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that it could find no errors in the judge’s decision that a youth sentence was not sufficient to hold the shooter accountable.

“The sentencing judge reviewed the other factors including the absence of a criminal record, the lack of (his) insight into why he committed the offences, his lack of insight into the effect on the victims at the school, his prospects for treatment and rehabilitation, his risk to reoffend, whether the duration of the external controls and monitoring available under a youth sentence would be sufficient,” Justices Jerome Tholl and Robert Richards wrote in the decision released Thursday.

“After doing so, she determined a youth sentence was not sufficient to hold (him) accountable for his actions.”

In a dissenting ruling, Justice Georgina Jackson said she would have allowed the appeal and set aside the adult sentence. She said she would have replaced that with the maximum 10-year youth sentence divided between six years in custody and four years in the community under supervision.

Jackson said the shooter’s planning of the crime did not show strategic or analytical reasoning demonstrative of adult-like maturity. She also cited evidence that his background reduced his moral blameworthiness and his culpability.

“(He) was not living like an adult — he was living like a child and one that was much younger than 17,” she wrote. “He was riding his bike, playing video games, skipping out of classes,” Jackson wrote.

“He had committed no previous offences. He was totally dependent on others and vulnerable to the influence of others for food, clothing, shelter and marijuana.

“Finally, based on the experts’ evidence, (his) cognitive limitations and his emotional and mental health played a role in the offending.”

When the appeal was heard last spring, the shooter’s lawyer, Aaron Fox, argued that his client faced cognitive and mental issues that affected his maturity and level of blame.

Court heard the shooter has a low IQ, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and has struggled with depression.

Fox said the shooter did not have an escape plan nor did he attempt to disguise what he was about to do. He first posted online about his plan before driving to the high school.

At the time of the shooting, he was repeating Grade 10 for a third time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2019

The Canadian Press

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