R. v. WILLIAMS AND MERRETTE, 2020 NSSC 260

Deciding on plea of defendants to reduce their sentence Court noted that the in view of ‘Principle of Sentencing’ the situation of COVID-19 pandemic cannot be invoked to seek leniency to the convicts whose actions deserve a strict punishment otherwise.

The brief facts of the case are that the defendants (Sandra Williams and Howard G. Merrette) were both husband and wife and lived in Scots Lake Road near Musquodoboit Harbour near the place of victims. They were having disputes regarding the ownership of a private road. According to the defendants, they had the ownership of the road which was later proved to be contrary to the facts. In view of this, the defendants were repeatedly harassing the victims verbally and sometimes through the physical force too. They even posted abusive content about the victims on social media. In various instances, victims was seen to have called 911 to complain regarding the acts of defendants. Neighbors of the locality had tried to solve the dispute and mediation meetings had also been called by them. But still, the behavior of the defendants continued to be violent and to quote one of the defendants (Ms. Williams), “this is war and all the people are all targets”. Based upon these facts, the jury held the defendant couple guilty of various offenses under Criminal Code [Criminal harassment s. 264(2)(d), Assault with a weapon s. 267 (a), Assault s. 266 and Mischief to both the victims s. 430(1) and Assault causing bodily harm s. 67 (b) to Mr. Merrette]

The defendants had requested to reduce their sentence by citing the reasons of their old age and COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the Court rejected their request and explaining the ‘principle of sentencing’ and the nature of their actions held that “COVID-19 is not a circumstance that will justify imposing a sentence that is unfit and inappropriate.” Further, the court was of the view that strict punishment is essential in the facts of the case to show that bullying has various consequences, including incarceration. The court thus ordered 30 days of incarceration and 3-year term of probation to Miss Williams along with the 100 hours of community service. While the other defendant (Mr. Merrette) was incarcerated for nine months along with 3-year term of probation. The court has ordered the sentences based on the level of their moral blameworthiness. Mr. Merrette has also been prohibited from using weapons for 10 years. The term of probation included- reporting to the Probation Officer post their incarceration, keeping distance from victims, attending the counseling session, among others. Commenting further on the sufferings of the victims, the Court noted that although punishment awarded to the defendants will not revert their sufferings, but will surely end their problems.