A group of lawyers opposed to consecutive life sentences has been granted intervener status in an appeal of the sentence handed down to Quebec City mosque killer Alexandre Bissonnette.
The Montreal Defence Lawyers Association is arguing that the Criminal Code contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by allowing judges to stack life sentences for multiple murders instead imposing them concurrently.
Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last year to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Centre during evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017, and opened fire.
The Crown had requested a sentence of six consecutive 25-year terms with no chance of parole — 150 years in total — but Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot opted for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 40 years, saying that a sentence beyond life expectancy would have been “absurd” and a charter violation.
The law, however, would have allowed the judge to impose a 150-year jail sentence, which is what the association is now challenging.
The lawyers argue that “a sentence exceeding life expectancy without review mechanism” would be “inconsistent with human dignity” and a violation of Section 12 of the charter, which grants protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2019.