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SENTENCING - Participation in criminal organization - Trafficking - Conspiracy - Sentencing considerations - Deterrence - Denunciation - Protection of the public - Sentence imposed on co-accused - Seriousness of offence

Tuesday, March 07, 2017 @ 8:47 AM  


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Appeal by the Crown from the sentences imposed on the offenders, Alcantara and Knapczyk, for drug offences. An extensive RCMP and police investigation targeted cocaine trafficking in Fort McMurray. The offenders were tried together for offences related to a drug conspiracy, drug trafficking, and commission of offences on behalf of a criminal organization. Following exhaustion of the appeal process, the Crown obtained convictions on all three counts. The trial judge concluded the offenders were Hells Angels members affiliated with a sophisticated conspiracy to traffic in multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine. The role of the offenders involved providing protection to traffickers, and dealing with individuals who interfered with the trafficking business. The head of the conspiracy pled guilty and received a 14-year sentence pursuant to a joint submission. For the offenders, the Crown sought sentences in excess of 20 years. In 2012, the offenders were sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for the conspiracy count, plus two years' consecutive for the criminal organization count. In 2016, following the conclusion of the appeal process and appellate confirmation of convictions for drug trafficking, the offenders received an additional eight-year concurrent sentence, less credit for time served, such that no additional time was added to the initial sentence. The Crown appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. There was no practical means to measure the parity between the sentences received by the offenders with the sentence received by the head of the conspiracy following his guilty plea and the joint submission. The trial judge did not minimize the role of the offenders in the trafficking operation, as she understood that the offenders facilitated the criminal organization's scheme of distributing cocaine, thereby enhancing the risk and harm to the public. In the course of assessing culpability, the trial judge did not err in assessing the expert evidence regarding the Hells Angels, or otherwise minimize the impact of the offenders' affiliation with the Hells Angels on the trafficking conspiracy. However, the sentences imposed were not proportionate to the gravity of the offences and culpability of the offenders. Distribution of hard drugs at a professional and large volume level contributed to the damaging, destabilizing and scarring of a community. An increase in the sentences from 10 years to 15 years was required to give full effect to the seriousness of the offences, the offenders' degree of responsibility, and recognize the principles of deterrence and denunciation. Sentence: 15 years' imprisonment for conspiracy; two years' concurrent for criminal organization offence; eight years' concurrent for drug trafficking.

R. v. Alcantara, [2017] A.J. No. 134, Alberta Court of Appeal, C.A. Fraser C.J.A., J. Watson and M.B. Bielby JJ.A., February 14, 2017. Digest No. 3641-004