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SENTENCING - Conspiracy to commit murder - Protection of the public - Seriousness of offence

Monday, May 28, 2018 @ 8:42 AM  

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Sentencing hearing for Souvannarath, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder unnamed members of the public. Souvannarath was born in Chicago, Illinois, in January 1992 and was a citizen of the United States of America. She spent much of her time on the Internet and developed a fascination with the Columbine high school massacre. Gamble was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in August 1995 and also spent much of his time on the Internet. Their mutual admiration of Columbine became a powerfully unifying factor between Souvannarath and Gamble. They met online and began to communicate over Facebook in December 2014. They made a plan to murder random members of the public present in a Halifax shopping centre on February 14, 2015. They planned to use Molotov cocktails, guns, and knives. Shepherd, whom Gamble met in high school, was not agreeable to raising a weapon alongside Gamble and Souvannarath, but he purchased a hacksaw and materials needed to make the Molotov cocktails for use in the massacre. He also offered to pick up Souvannarath from the airport. On February 12, 2015, Gamble was at his parents’ home, preparing to kill his parents before Souvannarath arrived at the home. Souvannarath flew from Chicago to Halifax on a one-way ticket. Shepherd was there to pick her up at the airport. An anonymous individual placed a timely call to the Nova Scotian Crime Stoppers tip line. As a result of the information received from the anonymous individual, Souvannarath and Shepherd were arrested at the airport. The police attended Gamble’s residence and surrounded the home. Gamble committed suicide inside the home. The Crown was seeking a sentence in the range of 20 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment. The Defence was seeking a sentence in the range of 12 to 14 years’ imprisonment, with pre-sentence remand custody credit of approximately 57 months.

HELD: Souvannarath sentenced to life imprisonment and 10 years’ parole ineligibility. The circumstances of this case were unique. There was no range of sentences in decided cases for conspiracies to commit mass murder, other than the extent to which comparables could be drawn from the sentencings in terrorism cases. While a guilty plea was generally considered a mitigating factor, the extent of that mitigation was largely attenuated in this case by the arguable inevitability of Souvannarath being found guilty. While Shepherd was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on a joint recommendation by counsel upon his guilty plea, he had a very much less significant role than Souvannarath. Souvannarath was 23 years old at the time of her arrest and had no previous criminal record. She and Gamble intended to maximize dead and wounded casualties. Souvannarath travelled to Canada exclusively for the purpose of committing a serious crime. She had not expressed remorse and her prospects for rehabilitation were very guarded. The paramount sentencing considerations were denunciation, deterrence, and separating Souvannarath from society. She was an ongoing danger to public safety. Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ parole ineligibility; DNA order; 10-year weapons prohibition; $200 victim surcharge -- Criminal Code, s. 465(1)(a).

R. v. Souvannarath, [2018] N.S.J. No. 146, Nova Scotia Supreme Court, P.P. Rosinski J., April 20, 2018. Digest No. TLD-May282018002