Clouthier’s blood alcohol was over the legal limit; he drove anyway. He drove badly and dangerously. Clouthier rear-ended another motorist as he approached an intersection; he fled from the accident. He did so by reversing over the median and heading into a residential area. There he rear-ended a second vehicle. He fled from that accident too- accelerating away at speeds over 100km/hr. He collided head on with another vehicle. One of the passengers of that third vehicle sustained serious injuries and need emergency surgery. Clouthier climbed out of the window of his truck and tried to run away. Witnesses captured him and held him until police arrived.
Clouthier plead guilty to impaired operation causing bodily harm, dangerous operation causing bodily harm and two counts of failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
He was remorseful. He took steps prior to sentencing to address his addictions and depression. By the time of sentencing he was gainfully employed.
Clouthier sought a suspended sentence or alternatively that he be sentenced to 90days and be permitted to serve the time on weekends.
The Crown argued for a sentence of 12months incarceration followed by probation.
The sentencing judge decided that a period of 5months in custody was the appropriate sentence, however she offered Clouthier the opportunity to serve the sentence in two intermittent installments. Clouthier accepted. He served 90days intermittently and then returned to court months later to be sentenced to a further 60days intermittent sentence.
The Crown appealed arguing that the imposition of consecutive intermittent sentences was illegal and that the sentence was manifestly unfit. The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed: 2016 ONCA 197.
Watt JA writing for the Court held:
What happened here was that, by imposing intermittent sentences at different times, the trial judge did indirectly what she could not have done directly without breaching the 90-day limit in s. 732(1) of the Criminal Code. The result is an effective sentence that defeated the very object of s. 732(1) and disregarded the correctional principles that it was meant to serve. [@para 38]
With respect to the fitness of the sentence the Court held that the five month sentence imposed “fails to reflect in any meaningful way the predominant sentencing objectives of general deterrence, denunciation, and protection of the public.” [@para 58]
Moreover the Court noted that it was an error not to have imposed consecutive sentences for the two counts of failing to stop at the scene. Although the sentences for failing to stop could have been made concurrent to each other to give effect to the principle of totality “they should have been made consecutive to the sentences for the dangerous and impaired offences.” [@para 60]
The Court held that the appropriate sentence in this case would have been 15-18months followed by a 12 month period of probation. This is so notwithstanding the positive rehabilitative steps Clouthier took to address his addictions.
In deciding whether to reincarcerate the offender the Court explained that:
These were serious offences that demonstrated a complete disregard for the lives and safety of others lawfully using the streets of an urban area on a summer evening. Repeated flights from the scenes of the accidents displayed a callous indifference to fellow motorists. No undue delay has occurred between service of the sentence and the hearing and determination of the sentence appeal. Despite the respondent’s remorse and significant rehabilitative steps, I see no reason to stay the operation of the sentence I consider appropriate in this case. [@para 64]
The ONCA ordered Clouthier to surrender himself within 72hours to serve a further 9months in custody.
Active efforts at rehabilitation are an important consideration at sentencing however they cannot displace the predominant sentencing objectives of deterrence, denunciation and protection of the public. As Watt JA held, those efforts are what make the appropriate range 15-18months “were it not for these positive attributes, a fit sentence would involve a more lengthy period of incarceration.” [@para 61]