R v Miller, 2020 ABPC 92

This was a sentencing hearing following early guilty pleas to charges of animal cruelty and breach of recognizance, pursuant to ss. 445(1)(a) and 145(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Accused’s girlfriend could not keep her kitten (“Prince”) at her group home, therefore the accused became the primary caretaker of Prince. After a series of heated arguments, the accused hit Prince on the head multiple times and threw him to the floor. This was filmed by the Accused and sent to his girlfriend. Prince sustained extensive injuries and the accused’s girlfriend convinced him to bring Prince to a nearby 24-hour vet clinic. There the Accused lied and stated he found Prince in an alley, already badly injured. The Accused also lied to police that he had taken Prince to a veterinarian after hitting him off a side table.

For sentencing, the Court considered aggravating factors such as the grave nature of the offence, his motive, his premeditated and deliberate actions, Prince being particularly vulnerable, lying at the veterinarian clinic, having a moderate risk of future violent misconduct, and not being a first offender. The Court also considered the accused’s mental health, including his anger management problems, and it’s possible effect on sentencing in reference to R v Manyshots 2018 ABPC 17, at paras 57-61. However, the Court did not find any evidence to support reducing moral blameworthiness of the accused or the weight to be given to general deterrence as a sentencing principle because of the accused’s mental disorders. The Court held that the extensive news media coverage in this case mitigated the need for a specific deterrence. But for the accused’s early guilty pleas, his youth, unfortunate personal circumstances, lack or any related adult criminal record, his continued community support, and this being his first custodial sentence, the Court would have imposed 18 months imprisonment, as the Crown Counsel requested.

The Court ultimately held that the appropriate sentence would be a period of twelve months imprisonment followed by two years’ probation. Pursuant to section 447.1 of the Criminal Code, the accused was also given a lifetime animal prohibition order. For the breach of recognizance offence, the Court found that a fit sentence would be one-month imprisonment held concurrently.