Nunavut judge reduces sentence because of jail conditions during pandemic

Judge takes 60 days off man’s sentence for assault, drug-related charges

A Nunavut judge has ruled that a man’s sentence should be reduced by 60 days because of conditions put in place at the Baffin Correctional Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

A Nunavut judge has ruled that a man’s sentence should be reduced because of conditions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic at Baffin Correctional Centre.

In a written decision heard on June 15 and released publicly on Tuesday, Aug. 4, Justice Susan Charlesworth ruled that Robert Campbell’s sentence should be reduced by 60 days “because of the harsher conditions of his incarceration” during the pandemic.

Campbell was charged in 2019 with selling and possessing drugs in addition to four separate assault charges, including an assault with a weapon on his domestic partner.

Campbell was detained in January and pleaded guilty to all charges. His sentencing was adjourned to April 7, but it was cancelled because of the pandemic. He remained in custody.

Defence and Crown lawyers jointly submitted that Campbell should serve a 15-month sentence. They also agreed that Campbell should then serve another 18 months’ probation after his sentence.

In her decision, Charlesworth agreed that a 15-month sentence would be appropriate, given not only the severity of the assaults, but also Campbell’s guilty pleas.

“Over a period of almost six months, Mr. Campbell assaulted five separate individuals in four separate locations across Iqaluit, from well-known businesses to private residences,” Charlesworth wrote.

“Mr. Campbell’s guilty plea and his prepared statement to me show he is taking responsibility for these offences and intends to work on rehabilitating himself.”

But, at the time of his sentencing, Campbell had already been in jail for a little over five months. In her decision, Charlesworth gave Campbell enhanced credit for his time served. Section 719 (3.19) of the Criminal Code allows the court to grant enhanced remand credit of up to 1.5 times the days someone has already spent in custody.

Campbell’s days of pre-sentence custody multiplied by 1.5 reduced his 15-month sentence by 234 days to 216 days.

Charlesworth added, “With the 60 days by which I have chosen to reduce Mr. Campbell’s sentence, that leaves 156 days remaining to be served,” Charlesworth wrote.

Charlesworth noted changes made at Baffin Correctional Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic as of March 16, included the following: all visits cancelled, all programs cancelled including elder counselling, country food no longer provided, money transfers cancelled, and outdoor time reduced to two to three times a week for 30 minutes at a time.

“Time in custody during the current pandemic, depending on public health and geographic realities, may be harsher time in custody than usual,” she wrote.

Because visits were cancelled, Campbell could not see his four children who live in Iqaluit and could not transfer money to his family or take programs while in custody, Charlesworth noted.

“Our usual calculus regarding proportionality must adjust to consider the harshness of conditions now. It must consider that the time Mr. Campbell has yet to spend in custody will be harsher for an unknown period of time,” she wrote.

As of June, all restrictions put in place because of COVID-19 concerns have been lifted, a spokesperson for Nunavut’s Department of Justice told Nunatsiaq News in an email. Social distancing and hygiene measures are still in place. Also, while counselling from elder volunteers was put on hold during the pandemic, a psychiatric nurse and staff elder counsellor were available, the spokesperson said.

An update issued by the Department of Justice on June 15 stated that in-person visits could resume at the territory’s correctional facilities through its regular appointment process.

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