Her Majesty The Queen v. Melvin Skeete
Youth Justice Court of Nova Scotia
R. v. Skeete, 2013 NSPC 3
14 January 2013
Youth Criminal Justice Act (Sections 3, 34, 38, 42, 51, 71, 72, 92, 93, 110, and 111)
Criminal Code (Section 109, 235, 487.051)
Skeete was convicted of second degree murder in relation to a crime committed when he was 16 years old. The prosecution applied for an adult sentence for Skeete, which meant life imprisonment with a period of parole ineligibility of seven years. The defence argued that Skeete should receive a youth sentence for second degree murder and, given the amount of time he has already spent in custody (remand credit), they argued he should be sentenced to four years in custody and three years under conditional supervision to be served in the community. Skeete did not seek to have any credit granted for the time he had served on remand since being taken into custody, however, the Youth Criminal Justice Act requires the Court to “take into account” Skeete’s remand time.
Issues and Resolutions:
Sentencing of juvenile offenders. Whether Skeete should be given an adult or a youth sentence and whether he is entitled to remand credit. The Court ruled that Skeete should be given the adult sentence and in this case the Court had no discretion but to impose the minimum sentence of life imprisonment with a period of parole ineligibility of seven years. It was also ruled that the Court is not obliged to grant remand credit, but in cases such as the present time in remand can be taken into account in sentencing.
The Court noted the two objectives a youth sentence is intended to achieve: first, it must be long enough to reflect the seriousness of the offence and the offender’s role in it; and, second, it must be long enough to provide reasonable assurances of the offender’s rehabilitation to the point where he can be safely reintegrated into society. In the present case, the Court determined that seven years would not be adequate amount of time to achieve these two objectives.
The Court reasoned that to order an adult sentence notwithstanding Skeete’s young age, it was required to evaluate and weigh the following factors: the seriousness and circumstances of the offence, Skeete’s age, maturity, character, background and previous record, and any other factors the Court deemed relevant. The Court acknowledged that if it was satisfied that only an adult sentence could hold defendant to account, the Court would be required to impose a life sentence. The Court emphasized that there was no exercise of judicial discretion where the adult sentence for murder was imposed on a young person because the mandatory minimum punishment of life imprisonment had been fixed by Parliament.
The Court ruled that, notwithstanding the fact that Skeete was only 16 at the time of the murder, after weighing all the relevant factors in the case, Skeete was no longer entitled to the protection afforded by the presumption of diminished responsibility. The Court sentenced Skeete to life imprisonment with parole ineligibility at seven years. It also imposed a lifetime weapons prohibition order; a DNA order for a primary designated offense and a lifting of the publication ban on Skeete’s name.
On the issue of remand credit, the Court considered whether the Youth Criminal Justice Act’s mandate meant that Skeete had to be given actual credit for the time he had already spent detained for the murder. It ruled that it was not required to give Skeete actual credit for his time on remand, but it was required to take his remand time into account.
For more information on the issue of inhuman sentencing of children, including a selection of case law, please see CRIN’s ‘Inhuman sentencing‘ campaign.
This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice