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Gibbons Bargained Well for Reyat


The Globe and Mail, Feb. 12, 2003

"Anything less than a life sentence was a marvellous deal for the man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 1985 Air-India bombing that killed 329 people, a prominent sentencing expert says. 'You really would have thought that any involvement in that many deaths would have meant a sentence of life imprisonment,' said lawyer Clayton Ruby, author of a definitive text on sentencing practices. At the same time, Mr. Ruby said, Inderjit Singh Reyat can forget about being paroled before he serves the last minute of his five-year sentence. 'A parole board having the courage to release him early does not exist,' Mr. Ruby said in an interview. 'You can say with virtual certainty that he will never be paroled.' "
"Manslaughter stands apart from virtually every other Criminal Code offence in that its remarkably flexible sentencing ranges from a suspended sentence to life imprisonment. (Anyone sentenced to life imprisonment for manslaughter is not eligible for parole until seven years have been served.) Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan said yesterday that critics of the Crown must recognize that a manslaughter conviction means the offender had no intent to kill. He said that in Mr. Reyat's case, a sentencing principle known as 'totality' dictates that the two bombings be considered related offences, since Mr. Reyat's specific role in the entire chain of events was integral to both. 'We certainly shouldn't be looking at it as just five years,' Mr. Mulligan said. He said the bombings were so closely related that without a plea bargain, Mr. Reyat's lawyers might have gone on to persuade a judge that it is illegal to sentence him twice for what was effectively the same crime."
"Mr. Reyat might well have ended up serving a longer sentence had the bombings instead been unrelated and taken place at different times, Mr. Mulligan said. He added that the deal was struck by two experienced sets of lawyers who well understood the strengths and weaknesses of the case and its likely outcomes. It is a subtlety of manslaughter sentences that while the offender lacks an intent to kill, the deaths resulting from his actions can be taken into account during sentencing - up to a point. . . . 'Plea bargains often occur when the Crown is not at all sure it can prove anything at all,' he said. 'We just have no idea about that.' While there has been no indication that Mr. Reyat co-operated with the Crown in its prosecution of other bombers, Mr. Ruby said, any such co-operation would undoubtedly have been cloaked in secrecy. 'Prisoners serving long terms who help the prosecution often end up dead if it is known,' Mr. Ruby said."