The Smithers courthouse. (File photo)

Judge reserves sentencing until Dec. 9 in Giesbrecht trial

Crown asks for 12-15 years of parole ineligibility

A judge has reserved his decision on the final sentencing of Albert Giesbrecht until Dec. 9.

Justice David Crossin found Giesbrecht guilty on May 24 of the May 18, 2017 second-degree murder of Raymond Bishop in Burns Lake.

The conviction carries a mandatory life sentence and minimum parole ineligibility of 10 years.

READ MORE: Giesbrecht found guilty of second-degree murder

At the Oct. 11 sentencing hearing in Smithers Crossin heard submissions from the Crown and defence on parole eligibility.

Crown counsel Nina Purewal argued for 12 to 15 years of parole ineligibility, asking the judge to increase the period at the upper end of the scale.

According to sentencing principles a judge has the discretion to increase parole ineligibility if there are “particularly” aggravating circumstances.

In this case, Purewal pointed to the Crown’s facts of the case that Giesbrecht, following a lengthy period of harassment of his ex-wife Susan Giesbrecht and the victim, loaded two firearms, drove to the Burns Lake ferry terminal and took the ferry over to the Southside with the intent to track down Susan and/or Bishop.

There, in a state of anger, resentment and jealousy, he encountered Bishop, exited his truck with his 30-30 rifle and shot the man dead in the street at short range. Additionally, the entire incident was in the context a former intimate domestic relationship, she said, and there was no evidence of provocation on Bishop’s part or a struggle between the two men. Finally she said, Giesbrecht had shown no sign of remorse.

READ MORE: Giesbrecht murder trial concludes

Crossin questioned the prosecutor on where the line is to be drawn between aggravating circumstances, which, he said, are inherent in all murders, and particularly aggravating.

Purewal acknowledged any one of these factors would not necessarily constitute a particularly aggravating circumstance, but that the constellation of all of them taken together did.

In making the argument, Purewal relied heavily on the B.C. Court of Appeals (COA) decision in R. v. Scott. In that case, the defendant was similarly estranged and jealous of a perceived relationship between his ex-girlfriend and another man. Scott left the woman’s apartment, went home, loaded a rifle and a shotgun and returned to the apartment to kill the woman and himself.

When he arrived, he found the other man parked outside the apartment, pinned his car in, got out of his own vehicle with the shotgun and unloaded it into the victim’s head.

In that case the COA ruled for 14 years of parole ineligibility.

Purewal closed by reading some of the victim impact statements provided by friends and loved ones of the deceased.

Terry Laliberté, for the defence, asked for the minimum 10 years of parole ineligibility.

He said contrary to the Crown’s contention, his client is, in fact, profoundly remorseful.

In his submissions, he focussed on the mitigating circumstances. He pointed to his client’s lack of criminal record and characterized him as a “simple fellow” and a “hard-working chap” who loved his wife and found himself in an angry state that ended with an unintended tragedy.

Laliberté countered R. v. Scott saying in that case the man had gone over with intent to harm his ex-girlfriend whereas Giesbrecht had no such intent.

He argued his client had accepted responsibility for creating the circumstances that resulted in Bishop’s death.

Crossin pressed the defence on that point, noting he recognized counsel had to take much care in how he framed the issue. Nevertheless, while the judge said he had heard evidence of Giesbrecht taking responsibility for the circumstances leading up to the crime, he had not heard anything that makes him believe the defendant had taken responsibility for the crime itself.

Laliberté assured the judge Giesbrecht has accepted his responsibility and is paying the price.

He argued there is no evidence of future dangerousness on the part of Giesbrecht, saying it should be left up to the parole board, and not the Court, to assess whether Giesbrecht is fit to be released in 10 years. He also noted the man will be 79 or 80 years old by then.

After hearing all the submissions, Crossin addressed the gallery, mostly made up of residents of the Burns Lake area. He said he had to carefully review all of the case law and submissions, particularly the victim impact statements. He explained that being a judge from out of town, he was limited by when he could get back to Smithers and had only one day, Dec. 9, between now and Christmas on which he could be in town.

He acknowledged it is frustrating for people to see the case drag on, but said it was unavoidable under the circumstances.

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