The man found guilty of manslaughter of Calgary Police Officer Sergeant Andrew Harnett will be sentenced as an adult, rather than under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). Despite being sentenced as an adult, the man's name remains under a publication ban as the offence took place when they were a minor at 17 years old. Justice Anna Loparco referred to the man as "AM" during the court session on May 10.
Loparco said she was "convinced that an adult sentence is necessary to fulfill the objectives of the YCJA and meet the requirement that AM be held accountable for his offence in a manner that courts with the high level of blame-worthiness of his actions." Had the man been charged under the YCJA, the maximum sentencing period would have been three years.
"It would be imprudent to conclude that AM would be adequately rehabilitated in a three-year period to the extent that he can be safely returned without conditions to society," she said.
There were many factors that went into why Loparco chose adult sentencing over youth sentencing, which she explained during the court session. She added it is important to not judge based on the "ideal adult" when considering these circumstances, as that would set the bar too high when making a judgment based on whether or not the man was operating as a youth or adult.
Justice Loparco noted that the man has a normal cognitive function, so this did not affect the decision. This then turns the focus to maturity, and Loparco noted there were both youthful and mature characteristics in his actions, but there is enough evidence to say the man is mature and thus should be treated like an adult. This included but was not limited to:
- "While AM befriended slightly older individuals, there was nothing to indicate that any age difference reflected a heightened vulnerability on AM's part."
- "It appears that he enjoyed playing sports with (his peers). They were friends because they had common interests."
- "I also know AM was literally in the driver's seat at the time of the offence. This reflects a position amongst peers of equal status travelling together. He, as the driver, was at least in one sense, leading the team on the night in question." Loparco noted that AM was more often than not more of a follower rather than a leader, but this instance and the way he interacted with his peers shows they treated each other as equals.
- It is important to note that the group of peers AM spent time with were criminals who engaged in property crime, and Loparco rejected "any suggestion that AM was being used as a tool of older criminals," saying that AM was treated as an equal and thus showed the maturity of an adult
Loparco noted other signs of maturity, such as the fact that AM turned himself in after learning of Sergeant Harnett's death, but also said there were several examples of youthful behaviour too. Ultimately, there was enough to say AM was mature and behaving like an adult.
Character and maturity are closely linked, as the character of AM was discussed in relation to his maturity. While Loparco noted several mature qualities of his character such as trying to provide for his family financially and avoiding substance abuse as he understood the potential consequences, he also continued to reflect traits that reflected a reduced capacity of moral judgment.
"At the time of the offence, AM was self-centred and lacked insight, self-awareness, and empathy. AM presents, in the same manner, today, his behaviour is self-serving and manipulative, he continues to commit infractions when it suits him, he is disrespectful to the staff at times in the youth detention system, and he engages in chicanery to circumvent the rules. He fails to grasp his very real need to continue to take rehabilitative programs."
"It does not appear that AM's lack of self-awareness, his narcissism, his lack of sympathy, and lack of understanding are characteristic of youth. Any deficiencies in his lack of moral judgment are not due to AM's age, they are due to his character."
In regards to his actions that lead to Sergeant Harnett's death, Loparco said this was not an impulsive act and was an act that AM knew was wrong and continued to do anyways. When he noticed Sergeant Harnett still in the vehicle, he made several attempts to dislodge him while at a high speed, which Loparco said indicates that AM was aware of the circumstances and chose to act in that manner, knowing the potential consequences.
Under the YCJA, the maximum sentence for manslaughter would be three years. The defence argued that AM should be sentenced as a youth, as community rehabilitation programs would be the best way to get AM back into society. However, Loparco noted that AM scored very high on a test that indicates the risk of reoffending (on a scale of 1-9 he scored an 8), and believed that three years would not be enough to properly go through rehabilitation.
"AM presents as relatively satisfied with himself and inherently does not see the need for further treatment. He sees the seriousness of the index offence but minimizes his personal responsibility and denies that the outcome was foreseeable."
"His recounting of the events deflects blame and minimizes his role. While AM has expressed regret, and personal reflection, and has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and declared his remorse for his actions, I seriously query the genuineness of his words."
Loparco added during the trial, "his focus was almost exclusively on how his actions have affected his own life and his focus on his own personal goals now, rather than any thought of reparation to the victims and CPS community."
When considering these factors while also trying to balance the goal of rehabilitation vs making sure AM is held accountable for his actions, Loparco decided sentencing as an adult would be appropriate.
The official sentencing will happen on May 31 at 10:00 a.m. in Calgary.