A defendant who made a threat against a magistrate while in court cells was sentenced Monday to four months in prison, with a further 12 months’ suspended sentence.
Justin Donovan Moore, 27, pleaded guilty to the charge that on Feb. 26 at the courthouse and in the presence of a court marshal, he made a threat to cause serious harm to Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn, intending the marshal to fear that the threat would be carried out.
Crown counsel Neil Kumar explained that Moore had attended Family Court proceedings on that day. Magistrate Gunn found him in breach of a maintenance order and sentenced him to four days in custody.
In the cell area, Moore said, “She ain’t leaving here without getting shot. I’m not saying I will do it myself, but I know people who do not like her and will do it for me.”
The marshal reported what he had heard. Moore remained in custody, pleading guilty on March 7, when the court ordered a threat assessment and social inquiry report.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats used a starting point of three years when calculating the sentence.
“I think the starting point has to be high enough to be a shock to everyone,” Magistrate Foldats said, to deter anyone who might be inclined to commit the same offense. The magistrate, Crown counsel Mr. Kumar and defense attorney John Furniss agreed that there was no local case that they could look to as a precedent.
“We’re fortunate we don’t have any guidance here; that means it’s very rare,” the magistrate said. He added his intention that it not happen again.
The charge was brought under the section of the Penal Code dealing with “threat to kill” – anyone who makes a threat to another person to kill or cause serious harm to that person or another, intending that the person will fear the threat would be carried out, commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years. A threat may be committed in a public or a private place.
Mr. Furniss agreed that the court had to look at the deterrent aspect of sentencing. He suggested a starting point of nine to 12 months for someone with no previous convictions.
In Moore’s case, he noted, the threat was not made in open court: “It was the grumbling when he got downstairs.” It was said on the spur of the moment and Moore regretted saying it. “I don’t think there’s any fear that he presents a threat to any member of the judiciary,” Mr. Furniss said.
The magistrate observed that such a threat was an attack not only on a magistrate, but also on the whole judicial system, even though it was words and not actions, even though it was over in a matter of seconds.
Mr. Furniss detailed his client’s personal circumstances, including care for a child born with difficulties. With Moore in custody, the child’s mother has had to deal with problems on her own.
The magistrate referred to the social inquiry report and said Moore’s partner needed him; she had spoken highly of him as a father to their child. He said Moore had done the right thing by taking full responsibility for his offense, expressing regret and affirming that he will not do it again.
The magistrate explained that he had ordered a risk assessment because “We have to take these things seriously. We have to make sure judicial officers are safe.” The investigating officer had reported there was no evidence that the threat had progressed beyond the initial stages.
“Maybe it was anger and frustration at the time, but we don’t know that until afterwards,” the magistrate pointed out.
He concluded that the threat was not planned or calculated, and Moore had significant personal mitigation that far outweighed the aggravating features.
Using the three-year starting point, he deducted 12 months after considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. From the resulting 24 months, he gave a one-third discount for the guilty plea. Of the remaining 16 months, he ordered Moore to serve four months and have the other 12 months “hanging over his head” as a suspended sentence.
The magistrate also gave Moore credit for the time he has been in custody.