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Prof decries Crown's proposed Justin Bourque sentence as 'vengeance-based'

10/29/2014 11:38 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST
A criminology professor contends sentencing Moncton Mountie killer Justin Bourque to a precedent-setting 75 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole would be a "knee-jerk" reaction.

Karla O'Regan, of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, says no matter what Bourque's crimes, there's no room in Canada's justice system for "retribution."

"I think the difficulty with Justin Bourque's case is that we really don't want to design the criminal justice system around particular, isolated and violent offenders," she said.

"We really want to design it for the protection of rights and freedoms of the general citizenry. So there are ripple effects of instituting a sentence that's vengeance-based."

O'Regan was responding to Bourque's two-day sentencing hearing, held earlier this week in Moncton.

Bourque is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday for killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others on June 4.

He previously pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Crown prosecutor Cameron Gunn is seeking a sentence of life in prison, with no parole eligibility for 75 years, which would be the longest sentence in Canadian history.

Up until 2011, the maximum sentence a multiple killer could be given in Canada was life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

Bourque's defence lawyer, David Lutz, asked the court to consider parole eligibility after 50 years. He argued that his client's crime, no matter how heinous, must be viewed by the judicial system in a dispassionate way.

O'Regan agrees. Anger and sadness should not play a role in Bourque's sentencing, she said.

"Knee-jerk reactions — which, I would include the recently tabled legislation in that — are a means of having the citizenry react out of fear and sadness and potent emotions rather than a more methodological approach to a criminal justice system," she said.

Citizens' views varied

Opinions among the Moncton citizens approached by CBC News on Tuesday were mixed.

Julie Zelazny believes Bourque should serve 75 years. "The max. He deserves the max," she said.

Keith Guptill agrees. "I just think he should get the full weight of the law put on his shoulders," he said.

Tyler Cormier says Bourque knew what the consequences would be.

"He threw his own life away by doing that. He took peoples' lives, and they can't come back, so he shouldn't come back," said Cormier.

"He wasn't psychotic or mentally ill. I think he knew what he was doing."

But Mitchell Cormier contends healing only comes with forgiving.

"Moncton as a whole needs to forgive the situation and move on," he said.

"Although we will never be the same, we can go on with love and we can just encourage our city to move on and to be as bold and as strong as we have in the past, and so, yeah, I have forgiven Justin. It was hard, but as my family in total and my church, we all agree that forgiveness is the way to go."

Const. Doug Larche, Const. Dave Ross and Const. Fabrice Gevaudan were all fatally shot by Bourque.

Const. Darlene Goguen and Const. Éric Stéphane J. Dubois were wounded.

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