A woman who stole from two Yellowknife convenience stores and later assaulted several Fort Smith jail guards is to remain in custody for six more months, a judge ordered.
Working through noisy video and phone links under new Covid-19 directives, Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy said he would simply state the sentence instead of reading his full decision as would normally occur.
The decision was instead to be emailed to lawyers listening in by phone.
Only two reporters were allowed in the courtroom at a time for Friday’s decision. Printed copies of the decision were provided.
Cynthia Joy Lafferty, 21, appeared via video link. She was sentenced to 15 months for the robbery of Willy’s Convenience Store on Range Lake Road. That means time served as she had 458 days of pre-trial credit.
Lafferty received six months, to be served concurrently, for the theft of cash from the Circle K convenience store – formerly known as Mac’s – on Forrest Drive.
The assault of the guards at Fort Smith Correctional Complex earned Lafferty six months to be served consecutively. Uttering threats to the guards resulted in a three-month sentence to be served concurrently.
After she finishes the six months remaining, Lafferty will be subject to two years of supervised probation.
On her release, she must abstain from alcohol or illegal drugs; provide a DNA sample for the national crime databank; not possess a firearm for 10 years; attend counselling as required, including anger management; have no communication with the owner of Willy’s Convenience Store; and not set foot in either of the stores.
She will also have to perform 180 hours of community service within 18 months.
‘Not an acceptable response’
“Ms Lafferty’s offences had a significant and continuing detrimental impact upon the convenience store clerk and the correctional officers,” stated Molloy in his written decision.
“I do not consider Ms Lafferty’s self-induced impairment from using crack cocaine, in and of itself, as lessening her moral blameworthiness. Yet her substance abuse issues have to be considered in the larger context of … the Gladue factors evidenced in the pre-sentence report.”
The Gladue principle, named after Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, orders sentencing judges to consider systemic or background factors when Indigenous offenders appear in court.
Lafferty has 12 convictions in youth court on her record, seven being violent in nature. She is of Métis descent and had a difficult upbringing, the court heard, being exposed to bullying, violence, and a lack of supervision. She has struggled with suicidal thoughts.
Lafferty was described in court as a crystal meth and crack cocaine addict since the age of 12.
“Whatever the source of her grievances, Ms Lafferty must be made to understand that violence is not an acceptable response, especially toward corrections officers,” stated Molloy in his decision.
Molloy also mentioned the impact of Lafferty’s robbery on the clerk at Willy’s, who was working alone.
“One must wonder why anyone takes a job in a convenience store, given the general propensity of criminals to rob them by subjecting vulnerable clerks to serious violence or threats of violence,” the judge stated.
“For that reason, courts have long recognized the need to protect such persons and to denounce these types of robberies.”
On September 30, 2019, Lafferty spat on two guards at the Fort Smith jail, screaming profanities and threats of graphic physical violence before she was restrained.
In Lafferty’s earlier sentencing hearing, the court was shown surveillance camera footage of her entering Willy’s in April 2019. She walks toward the lone clerk at the till and pulls out a knife.
The clerk grabs a long pole and pushes Lafferty back, but she swings the knife and manages to lunge over the counter. While still struggling with the clerk, Lafferty is shown grabbing about $300 in cash before leaving.
The clerk is seen throwing a chair at her as she runs through the doorway.