R v Drake (sentence), 2023 CanLII 68498 (NL PC)

This is the sentencing decision for the offender found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal as well as other charges relating to assault and breach of release and probation conditions over three separate informations that were heard together on May 10, 2023. The details of that hearing are available here.

The sentencing judge began by noting that the offender had appeared before them multiple times in the past and received suspended or conditional sentences with probation, but the noncustodial approach has failed to act as a deterrence for reoffending. Her diagnoses of borderline personality disorder, persistent depressive disorder, anxiety and substance use disorder (marijuana) were documented in the presentence report, as was the notation that the offender had been referred to services for mental health and addiction but that she was not interested in receiving such services. While mental health can be a mitigating factor in sentencing, the judge found no evidence of the offender’s reduced culpability due to mental health issues in the latest convictions and because she has consistently declined or terminated mental health services ordered in the past, it has “little relevance to her prospects for rehabilitation” (para.11).

The judge followed a three-step approach outlined by the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador for multiple offence sentencing of an offender (para.19). They quoted a number of animal abuse cases such as Power, Barrett, Alcorn, Houle, Florence, Ehbrecht, Chen and Carr to highlight the range of sentencing for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, quoting paragraph 33 of Chen that recognizes animal cruelty as a crime of violence (para.31) and Carr in paragraph 66 where the sentencing judge reiterates that animal abuse is a violent crime governed by the principles of denunciation and deterrence, that the accused was not a first time offender and that despite his early guilty plea and remorse, there were multiple aggravating factors (para.34). The judge summarized by stating that these cases suggest a trend of incarceration sentences for this offence.

The Crown sought a total term of imprisonment of nine to twelve months, which included three to four months for the animal cruelty charge, while defence counsel advocated for a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community, using the offender’s mental health diagnosis as a mitigating factor. The judge determined a spectrum of sentencing that included both consecutive and concurrent sentences and a 20-day credit for time served, for a net total of 160 days to be served in an institution due to the offender’s failure to comply with prior conditional court orders.

Of the 160 days, a 90-day consecutive sentence was ordered for causing an animal unnecessary suffering because the judge could not ‘in good conscience’ reduce it (para.43). Additionally, among the several ancillary orders, the offender will be placed on probation for 12 months upon release from custody where she would not be allowed any animal inside her residence or on property adjacent to it, a forfeiture of Goober to the provincial authorities under s 490.1(1)(a), a five-year animal prohibition order and a restitution order to cover the $166.75 veterinarian invoice under s 447.1(1). The amount for the SPCA invoice of $4080.00 for Goober’s care was waived due to the offender’s limited means and incarceration.