An article by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) was written last month to highlight the R.v Anthony-Cook case that took place in 2013 that had its final ruling in November of 2016. The original trial judge imposed a harsher penalty than the Crown and defence had initially agreed on for Matthew Anthony-Cook, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Michael Charles Gregory. The ruling issued by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) handed down a lighter sentencing as the Crown and defence agreed that the convicted man should not be subjected to harsher penalties due to his clear mental health and addiction problems.
Mr. Anthony-Cook was outside the Kettle Friendship Centre in Vancouver, a facility that provides assistance to people suffering from mental health and addiction problems. The appellant, who has a long standing mental health disorder, got into an altercation with Mr. Gregory outside the facility, which lead to a physical fight. Mr. Anthony-Cook punched Gregory in the head twice which resulted in Gregory falling backwards with his head hitting the pavement. Gregory died of a skull fracture later in the hospital.
At the original sentencing hearing, the judge disagreed with the joint submission from both the Crown and defence and wanted Mr. Anthony-Cook to be sentenced to an additional 18 months. This would make the total sentence two years less a day plus three years of probation. The judge cited reasons of “public interest” for the increased sentence.
This sentence was appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). The SCC sided with BCCLA’s argument which explained that judges should only go beyond joint submissions between the Crown and defence if it’s viewed by reasonable and informed persons, citing Anthony-Cook’s mental health.
Furthermore, the custodial term proposed that “while [the punishment] is low, it was not so low to bring the administration of justice into disrepute or be contrary to the public interest.” His sentence was reduced to the original 18 months, without probation.