Supreme court will hear sentence appeal of Alberta man who shot rifle at occupied house

Leave applications are a necessary first step to get your case before the nation’s top judges.

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Canada’s top court has agreed to hear the sentence appeal of a former Alberta man handed the mandatory minimum punishment for shooting at an occupied home.

In a brief posting online, the Supreme Court announced Thursday it has granted Jesse Dallas Hills leave to appeal his case.

As is the court’s practice, no reasons for granting leave were given.

Leave applications are a necessary first step to get a case before the nation’s top judges. Most appeals fail at this stage and lawyers are not afforded the opportunity to proceed to argue their cases.

Hills pleaded guilty in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench in connection with a May 16, 2014, incident in which he left his house armed with a .303 big game hunting rifle and a baseball bat.

He approached an occupied vehicle and swung the bat at it but missed. He then fired a shot at the vehicle and the driver fled. Hills next walked up to an unoccupied parked car and smashed the window with the bat before firing multiple shots into a home occupied by a couple and their two children.

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At his sentencing hearing, Hills’ lawyer argued the mandatory minimum punishment of four years for shooting at an occupied residence amounted to a cruel and unusual penalty in some cases and therefore violated the Charter.

Justice Rod Jerke agreed and sentenced Hills, who according to reports has since relocated to B.C., to 3 1/2 years.

But the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed with the Crown that the minimum punishment wasn’t unlawful.

Each of three judges wrote different decisions overturning Jerke’s finding.

One, Justice Thomas Wakeling, was critical of other cases in which Canadian courts had struck down mandatory minimums for other crimes based on hypothetical scenarios and not the offences for which they were considering.

I am . . . extremely troubled by the fact that Canadian courts have been busy striking down Criminal Code provisions that impose mandatory-minimum sentences because they can imagine a hypothetical offender for whom the mandatory-minimum prison sentence, in the court’s opinion, is much more severe than the imaginary offender deserves” Wakeling wrote.

Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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