Jun 21, 2018

R v LeBreton, 2018 NBCA 27

The Issue

Does 724(3)(e) ) of the Code allow a sentencing judge to infer a disputed aggravating fact from the undisputed facts presented at an informal sentencing hearing?

The Answer

In short, yes. The NBCA cited R v Gardiner, [1992] 2 SCR 368 where the SCC held as follows:

It should also be recalled that a plea of guilty, in itself, carries with it an admission of the essential legal ingredients of the offence admitted by the plea, and no more. Beyond that any facts relied upon by the Crown in aggravation must be established by the Crown. If undisputed, the procedure can be very informal. If the facts are contested the issue should be resolved by ordinary legal principles governing criminal proceedings including resolving relevant doubt in favour of the offender. [Gardiner @111].

The Fine Print

The NBCA held that the sentencing judge could, in this case, draw the impugned inference:

In this case, the dispute centres on the sentencing judge’s inference of premeditation, a state of mind which is a question of fact. In my view, the judge was entitled to draw the inference if she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt it was the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the facts. On this point, although Mr. LeBreton admitted to planning and taking the steps necessary to implement his plan, as noted, his dispute rested with whether the plan was for the purpose of scaring or killing his victim, which raised a question of his state of mind. I conclude his state of mind could be inferred from the facts. Applying Gardiner, it is easily concluded the sentencing judge had the right to rely on admitted facts to infer Mr. LeBreton’s state of mind. It is for this reason I am of the view the sentencing judge’s interpretation of s. 724(3)(e) was consistent with the framework set out by the Supreme Court in Gardiner. [@18]