Justice Louise Charbonneau sentenced a repeat knife-wielding robber to 38 months in prison in the NWT Supreme Court Thursday.
Charbonneau accepted the Crown and Defence counselors’ joint sentence submission of four-and-a-half years imprisonment for Joanasie Qumuaqtuq who twice robbed the Circle K at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Forrest Drive at knife point. He was also convicted of assaulting a peace officer, after punching and threatening a correctional officer while in custody at North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC).
Qumuaqtuq was sentenced to four years for the robberies, and to six months for assaulting a peace officer.
Typically, an offender’s sentence is reduced by one-and-a-half times the time they’ve already served while awaiting their sentence. In this case, however, Charbonneau did not grant the full credit because of Qumuaqtuq’s behaviour in custody.
Since she decided granting the full credit would “not be appropriate,” Qumuaqtuq’s sentence will be 38 months, a 16-month reduction when time served is applied, rather than the 35 months he would have served with the full credit.
In delivering her sentence, Charbonneau noted the “extreme vulnerability” of employees at “unprotected commercial outlets” referring to the man working at Circle K who happened to be working when both robberies occurred. “It must have been extremely terrifying,” she said.
She acknowledged too, that correctional officers work in environments that can quickly become tense and at times dangerous. Qumuaqtuq not only assaulted officer Teddy Houston, he also threatened to kill him and his family, “which must have been scary,” Charbonneau said.
Charbonneau told the court that Qumuaqtuq is “prone to having violent outbursts,” though he told his counselor Jay Bran said he doesn’t know why he acts the way he does.
Charbonneau said taking control over those impulses will be key to avoiding continued appearances before the court “I really hope this is the last time you are in court,” she told Qumuaqtuq.
“It’s awful to have to impose a penitentiary sentencing to a 22-year-old man, but his behaviour makes him a menace. Whatever triggers Mr. Qumuaqtuq, when he does get triggered he gets out of control very quickly,” she said.
Charbonneau noted that when presented with a joint sentence, her discretion is considerably reduced and she must accept the submission “except in exceptional cases.”
While she said the four-and-a-half year sentence is reasonable, she noted its leniency.
Charbonneau acknowledged relevant Gladue factors at play for Qumuaqtuq. “Significant weight was given to his age and personal circumstances,” she said.
Charbonneau also spoke about the concept of totality and how it is the court’s duty to consider the total effect of a sentence and not just add up sentences for individual offences. “If that were the case Mr. Qumuaqtuq might be facing a sentence in the double digits (in years).”
At the end of the hearing, Qumuaqtuq asked for a publication ban out of concern for how having his name associated with the crimes may impact his future.
While she said she understands his worry, Charbonneau denied the request and explained the importance of court proceedings being open to the public.
“It’s not a nice thing to have your name associated with these things, but it is a consequence,” she said.
“We have to trust that the public also understands that people can change.”