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Toronto Forcillo lawyer argues mandatory minimum ‘overbroad’

James Forillo is photographed leaving University Courts on May 18, 2016.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A lawyer for a Toronto police officer found guilty of attempted murder in the shooting death of a troubled teen is arguing that a mandatory minimum sentence of five years behind bars is "overbroad" and too harsh for someone like his client.

Const. James Forcillo's lawyer is making his arguments at a sentencing hearing for the officer, asking that the court find the mandatory minimum term unconstitutional.

In July 2013, Forcillo fired two separate volleys — three shots and then six shots — at Sammy Yatim, an 18-year-old who had consumed ecstasy and was wielding a small knife on an empty streetcar.

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A jury acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder in Yatim's death, but found the officer guilty of attempted murder for continuing to fire after the dying teen had fallen to the floor.

Forcillo's defence team is asking the court for a sentence of house arrest while the Crown is seeking eight to ten years in prison.

Defence lawyer Lawrence Gridin says taking away the availability of a house arrest sentence in Forcillo's case — through the mandatory minimum — is an "overbroad" action not intended to apply to police officers who must carry guns and protect the public.

Gridin says the court needs to consider that police officers are required by the law to carry guns as part of their job.

But Justice Edward Then, who is presiding over the case, says a police officer carrying a gun must also be bound by his duties, which include restraint.

"It's not a licence to kill, it's regulated," said Then. "Whether or not it's issued to him by way of his employment...he has to carry out the terms of his employment in a legal manner."

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