Parity does not mean Equal

Sahota participated in a prison riot. He was part of a group that attacked another smaller (in numbers) group at the Joyceville Prison. Ultimately, the attack focused on a single victim who was beaten severely. Sahota’s involvement in the attack was viscous and “substantially in excess of anything done or even attempted by the other inmates” [@para 2].

Sahota participated in the initial attack, he then returned to the victim who lay bloody and unconscious on the floor. Armed with a pool cue, Sahota speared the victim in the groin. He pulled down the victim’s pants and speared him again in the genitals with the pool cue. He spat on the victim and stomped on him before leaving the room [@para 3].

Sahota was charged with attempted murder but plead guilty to the lesser and included offence of aggravated assault. The Crown sought a sentence of 8 to 10 years; the defence sought a term of imprisonment of 3 ½ to 5 years. The sentencing judge imposed a sentence of 7½ years less 45 days of pre-sentence custody. Sahota appealed: 2015 ONCA 336

The sentencing judge had heard and sentenced the other offenders involved in the attack. Sahota argued that the sentencing judge failed to properly apply the principle of parity  as required by section 718.2(b) of the Code.

In dismissing the appeal the Court held that “this principle is one of parity, not equivalence” [@para 6].  The Court explained that “the principle of parity means that any disparity between sentences for different offenders in a common venture requires justification” [@para 7]. In this case the actions of the offender in returning to the room, delivering blows to the unconscious and injured victim, and spitting on the victim clearly set this offender apart. The fact that the other offenders were sentenced on the basis of joint submissions:

did not compel [the sentencing judge] to impose an equivalent or near equivalent sentence on the appellant for an offence that reflected a significantly greater degree of  moral blameworthiness. [@para 8]

Before concluding the Court of Appeal noted that:

it was not inappropriate for a trial judge to consider that a guilty plea in the face of an overwhelming case may not be accorded the same weight as one in which an accused pleads guilty and gives of significant litigable issues. [@para 9]

In Sahota’s case the evidence of his involvement was overwhelming, whereas the identity of the individuals who participated in the initial attack was less clear and as the Court of Appeal put it each of them “may have challenged the Crown’s case on identification.”  [@para 9]