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Prosecutors appeal ruling rejecting mandatory minimums

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Manitoba Justice is appealing controversial sentencing decisions which saw mandatory minimum prison terms junked by separate Court of Queen's Bench judges who each found they amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Prosecutors are asking Manitoba's Court of Appeal to re-sentence Bryce McMillan, 23, and Mario Adamo, 40. Both men learned in recent weeks they would not be subjected to years-long prison terms in their individual cases.

In McMillan's case, Justice John Menzies elected to toss out the four-year jail stint he faced which was mandated by law for recklessly firing a rifle at a Carberry-area home in September 2011.

Court heard McMillan lashed out after being repeatedly bullied by people in the community. Nobody was injured in the shooting, but there were people inside the home at the time.

Instead, Menzies sentenced McMillan to one year behind bars and two years of supervised probation, saying the unique circumstances of the case presented a situation where the mandatory minimum was unfit.

The Crown claims Menzies' decision amounts to a major error in law and should be overturned by Manitoba's highest court.

Justice officials make virtually the same argument in appeal documents filed in Adamo's case — which were placed before the appeals court on the same day as McMillan's.

Adamo, who suffers with major cognitive challenges after being beaten by Hells Angels members in 2000, was handed six months of time served and probation by Justice Colleen Suche on a weapons-related charge which, in law, is supposed to net a mandatory three year prison term.

Suche ruled the law was unfit given Adamo's significant mental challenges, and declared it "of no force and effect."

"I conclude that the mandatory minimum sentence... has a much greater impact on mentally disabled persons because it does not take into account their reduced moral blameworthiness," Suche wrote in her September ruling. As well, limitations in the prison system make it unable to deal with Adamo's needs, she ruled.

In each appeal — which will likely be heard at separate, as-yet-undetermined times in the coming months — the Crown claims each judge made an error in concluding there were no "demonstrably justified" exceptions to violations of Adamo and McMillan's fundamental rights under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lawyers for McMillan and Adamo have yet to file responses to the appeals. Both signalled after sentencing concluded they were aware the decisions would likely be headed to a higher court, and possibly all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

 

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 12:34 PM CDT: Corrects typo in headline.

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