R v Geick 2022 ABQB – Sentencing Decision

The accused was convicted of two counts of killing two dogs belonging to his former common law partner, Joanna Smith, contrary to s 445(1)(a) of the Criminal Code, after the Court determined that he had deliberately beaten Sophie and Tyler, causing them serious injury and ultimately death. The accused claimed to have no memory of being responsible for killing the dogs.

Necropsies on both dogs showed that they had died from severe trauma, with multiple blunt force injuries. The accused used so much force in pulling on Sophie’s ear that it almost detached from her skull; the forensic veterinarian described in testimony that her liver was “pulverized” and she died from those internal injuries likely in a great deal of pain. He used enough force to Tyler’s mouth and both ears, choking him hard enough to cause the bilateral scleral hemorrhage. He then kicked him in the abdomen, bruising Tyler’s lungs and causing the internal bleeding that ended in the decision to euthanize him.

The Crown sought sentencing in the range of three and a half to four years imprisonment, with a lifetime animal prohibition order. The position followed the principles reflected in R v Friesen, which give direction on imposing sentences that are fully reflective of the deep wrongfulness and harm caused in sexual offences against children, as those principles equally apply to animal cruelty offences.

The defence requested a six month sentence to be served at his home and believed a three year animal prohibition order would be sufficient.

Both parties were asked to provide submissions regarding the Alberta Court of Appeal’s recent decision in R v Chen. The sentencing judge considered those factors identified in Chen, specifically the animal’s pain and suffering during and after the event, that sentences for animal cruelty offences as crimes of violence often fail to reflect the seriousness of the crime, and that animals are uniquely vulnerable victims and not chattels.

The evidence established that both Tyler and Sophie suffered pain during and after the time their physical injuries were sustained, and that “animals are capable of displaying signs of discomfort and pain as sentient beings and domestic pets are particularly vulnerable as they are heavily dependent on people for their well being” (pp 16-17). The judge concluded “that a fit and proper sentence is 30 months incarceration relative to Sophie and 18 months incarceration relative to Tyler to be served on a consecutive basis” and “are reflective of [the accused]’s moral blameworthiness and are consistent with the notion that the wilful infliction of unnecessary pain on animals or family pets is considered repugnant in today’s society” (page 26).

In regard to the principles of totality and proportionality, the direction was that the accused serve 36 months incarceration, with a lifetime prohibition order under Criminal Code section 447.1. It was the first time that the court clerk had heard of that section