Supreme Court of Canada rules mandatory firearm sentences ‘unconstitutional’

By The Canadian Press

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a mandatory minimum sentence of four years for firing a gun at a house is unconstitutional.

The decision comes in the case of Jesse Dallas Hills, who pleaded guilty to four charges stemming from a May 2014 incident in Lethbridge, Alta., in which he swung a baseball bat and shot at a car with a rifle, smashed the window of a vehicle and fired rounds into a family home.

Hills argued the minimum four-year sentence in effect at the time for recklessly discharging a firearm into a house or other building violated the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

A judge agreed and Hills was sentenced to a term of 3 1/2 years, but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the finding of unconstitutionality, and the sentence was increased to four years.

In allowing Hills’s appeal today, the Supreme Court says the mandatory minimum sentence was grossly disproportionate, given that a young person might fire a paintball gun at a house as part of a game.

In any event, the Liberal government repealed this particular mandatory minimum sentence, along with others, after the appeal was heard.

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