New & Notable: SCC sends message on new offence of terrorism

Mohammad Momin Khawaja designed what he called the “hifidigimonster”. It was a remote arming device for explosives. He offered to people, that he believed were terrorists, that he would smuggle it into the United Kingdom and provide training in its use. In addition to making other offers of support to these people, he provided money for explosives for an operation in the United States or in Europe and for other projects. In a nutshell, Khawaja had become obsessed with Osama Bin Laden and his cause, and took steps to offer and provide assistance.


At trial, while Khawaja’s defence partially succeeded in challenging the constitutionality of several of the terrorism offences, he was nevertheless convicted of a number of terrorism offences. The trial judge sentenced Momin Khawaja to ten and a half years in the penitentiary and declined to provide any credit for time in custody prior to the imposition of the sentence on the basis that it would be incompatible with a denunciatory sentence. Parole ineligibility was set at five years to reflect the absence of any evidence of remorse, willingness to make amends or commitment to future compliance with Canada’s laws and values.


As often happens when a new criminal offence goes to court, the matter ultimately goes on to appellate review.  The Ontario Court of Appeal granted the Crown’s sentence appeal and imposed a life sentence on a non-terrorism explosives offence found in the Criminal Code. The Court also imposed a ten-year period of parole ineligibility and a series of consecutive sentences on the terrorism offences of which Khawaja was convicted: 2010 ONCA 862.


Ultimately, when Momin Khawaja appealed from this decision, the Supreme Court of Canada was presented with the opportunity to send a message regarding the gravity of the new terrorism offences: 2012 SCC 69.

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