A judge said he had no choice but to accept an “unfit” plea deal for an Inuvik man who punched his girlfriend in the face and kicked an RCMP officer in the ribs.
During a sentencing hearing for Gregory Allan Taylor on Friday, Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy said Supreme Court guidelines restrict his ability to reject joint sentencing recommendations.
“I am required to endorse this joint submission despite being of the opinion that the sentence is unfit and fails to protect society, in particular victims of intimate partner violence – [which] is especially concerning in this jurisdiction, given our dockets are rife with matters involving female victims of intimate partner violence,” said Molloy.
“A paltry 30 days’ imprisonment for Mr Taylor for his serious assault [on his intimate partner], with his antecedents, is significantly short in denouncing his conduct and it lacks any real impact as a deterrent on others.
“Still, I must endorse it … while the joint submission for sentence is unfit, I am unable to meet the threshold that it is so unhinged that it may cause a reasonable and informed person to believe that the proper functioning of the justice system has broken down.”
This wasn’t the first time Molloy has expressed his concern over the precedent set by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016, in a case called R v Anthony-Cook.
That 2016 ruling states: “Crown and defence counsel are well placed to arrive at a joint submission that addresses the interests of both the public and the accused. Trial judges should not reject a joint submission lightly. They should only do so where the proposed sentence would be viewed by reasonable and informed persons as a breakdown in the proper functioning of the justice system.”
While Molloy was bound to accept the joint recommendation, as the Crown and defence did not include a comprehensive list of conditions, he was able to “exercise judicial discretion” in making the sentence a little tougher.
That included an unusual demand requiring Taylor not only to tell his probation officer of any new or resumed relationships, but also to inform the woman of his previous convictions for domestic violence.
“You shall advise that intimate partner that you have a criminal record containing convictions for offences of violence towards previous intimate partners,” Molloy told Taylor, who was appearing via video link from the North Slave Correctional Complex.
Disturbance at warming shelter
On June 16, Taylor entered guilty pleas to assault on an intimate partner, assault on a peace officer, and breaching a release order. In exchange for those pleas, the Crown withdrew associated charges of breach of probation and breach of a release order.
On December 9, 2019, shortly after Taylor had completed a 60-day sentence for an unrelated assault, he was causing a disturbance at the Inuvik warming shelter when police were called. They didn’t arrest him, but asked him to leave. However, an “intoxicated and belligerent” Taylor later returned to the shelter, with police being called back.
As he was being arrested, there was a struggle and an officer was kicked in the ribs. At the time, Taylor was on probation with an order to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
On December 16, 2019, an intoxicated Taylor “punched his girlfriend in the face and threw her to the ground,” said the judge, noting Taylor was again bound by release conditions.
“When police arrived, [the woman] was bloodied.”
He was again released on bail but, on June 6, 2020, Taylor was arrested in Inuvik for being highly intoxicated, despite being on conditions not to be in the town. He has been in jail since.
Total sentence of 90 days
The judge noted Taylor had a troubled upbringing, becoming “an inmate of the foster care system,” in which he was subject to emotional and physical abuse. He left school in Grade 9 and has at times sustained himself as a carver. He hopes to take up the craft again.
However, he struggles with alcoholism and isn’t ready to seek treatment, the court heard.
Taylor’s criminal record has 28 entries, including two convictions for sexual assault, one conviction for assaulting a police officer, and numerous assaults – including one on a previous intimate partner.
Returning to another ongoing concern of his, Molloy said he was not informed by the Crown whether the victim was Indigenous, which is a key factor when formulating a sentence under new laws.
While the Criminal Code mandates courts give particular attention to the circumstances of Indigenous offenders – under what are called Gladue factors – since last September, courts are also mandated to give particular attention to the circumstances of Indigenous women who experience intimate partner violence.
The Crown stated it tried to contact the victim. Molloy questioned why the RCMP could not have gathered that information during their investigation.
Molloy sentenced Taylor to 30 days each for assault, assaulting a peace officer, and breaching a court order, to be served consecutively for a total of 90 days in jail. (Molloy’s complaint about a “paltry 30 days” had been for the assault portion of the sentence, specifically.)
As he has amassed 34 days of pre-trial remand credit, Taylor has 56 days left to serve.
He will be on 12 months’ probation when released, during which he must be of good behaviour, report to a probation officer, take counselling as directed, have no contact or communication with the victim unless with permission from his probation officer, abstain from alcohol in the presence of a current or former spouse or dating partner, and abide by the other conditions discussed above.
Taylor must perform 100 hours of community service. He cannot possess firearms for three years, but may seek sustenance exemption.
Molloy said he felt the minimum sentence for Taylor should have been eight months in jail – that sentence being longer if he hadn’t pleaded guilty, negating the need for the victim to testify at trial, and if it had been determined the victim was Indigenous.