Nunavut appeal court adds one year to Kimmirut house shooter’s sentence
Judges say attack on RCMP residences requires more than the minimum
In a split decision, two of three judges on the Court of Appeal of Nunavut have increased by one year a prison sentence imposed on a Kimmirut man who in 2012 fired seven bullets into a duplex that housed two RCMP officers and their families.
This past January Justice Andrew Mahar sentenced David Lyta to four years in jail, minus 13.5 months for pre-trial custody — a total of 34.5 months.
That’s after Lyta pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally discharging a firearm into a place while knowing another person is present in the place.
Mahar’s 34.5-month sentence was actually less than what Lyta’s defence lawyer, James Morton, had suggested. Morton asked for the mandatory minimum four-year sentence, with no credit for time served in pre-trial detention.
Now, in an Oct. 21 judgment endorsed by two of the three appeal court judges, Constance Hunt, and Clifton O’Brien, that sentence has been increased to five years, minus 13.5 months — a total of 46.5 months.
The maximum sentence is 14 years. Crown prosecutor Marian Bryant wanted to double Lyta’s original sentence to eight years in a Sept. 25 appeal hearing.
The appeal judges did find that Mahar’s original sentencing decision was flawed.
“Although the judge took proper account of a number of matters, in our view he overlooked or gave inadequate weight to several significant aggravating factors,” the joint decision by Hunt and O’Brien said.
Those aggravating factors include:
• that the attack was on residences occupied by the RCMP;
• the number of shots fired — 11 in total, seven of which hit the residence; and,
• the period of time during which the families had to wait for emergency help to arrive from Iqaluit.
Also, “the circumstances cry out for a denunciatory sentence beyond the mandatory minimum” because this marked the fourth incident in Kimmirut involving violence against the RCMP, the judges said.
Last July, Joe Utye was sentenced to seven years in prison for a targeted attack on the Kimmirut RCMP detachment.
Previously, in 2010, Pingoatuk Kolola was sentenced to life in prison for killing Kimmirut RCMP Cst. Douglas Scott in 2007, and recently lost an appeal for a retrial.
“The judge appropriately took account of the respondent’s relative youth, aboriginal status, guilty pleas, remorse, minor record and unfortunate family background,” the decision said.
Justice Frans Slatter, however, disagreed with the other two appeal court members.
In a dissenting judgment, he argued for a sentence of seven years minus 13.5 months.
He said the mandatory minimum sentence is “demonstrably unfit” and that if given the minimum sentence, “then virtually every other person charged would be able to say, ‘my offence was less serious than Lyta,’” Slatter said.