Crown lawyers are seeking an 18-year prison sentence for a man convicted of human smuggling for his role in the voyage of the MV Sun Sea, the dilapidated cargo ship that made the voyage from Thailand to B.C.'s coast with 492 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard seeking asylum.
Kunarobinson Christhurajah was found guilty in May 2017 during a retrial. His first trial ended in a mistrial after a jury couldn't reach a verdict.
Christhurajah was tried with three other men who were all acquitted of human smuggling charges.
During his initial trial, the court heard that Christhurajah was an asylum seeker who travelled on the Sun Sea with his wife. His lawyer maintained he acted for humanitarian reasons, either to assist their family members or to help fellow asylum seekers on the ship.
Meanwhile, Crown lawyers asserted he was the owner of the ship and one of the organizers of the voyage.
Crown: sentence 'severe' but warranted
A sentencing hearing began Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court. Crown lawyer Charles Hough told the judge an 18-year prison sentence is appropriate.
"I appreciate that this is a severe sentence, but the Crown says that a severe sentence is warranted given the rather extraordinary circumstances of this case," said Hough.
Hough discussed the deplorable conditions of the ship, the overcrowding and the fact that passengers were charged exorbitant amounts to be part of the trip.
"It's a rare case, not just in Canada but elsewhere in the world."
The Crown told the judge that this is a case of international organized crime and that a strong sentence needs to be imposed for deterrence and denunciation.
Christhurajah is currently out on bail but served more than six years in jail. With credit for time served, the Crown said Christhurajah would serve an additional 11 years.
The defence is seeking a sentence of time served, which amounts to just over six years. The court heard Thursday that Christhuraajah's wife has been granted refugee status, and the couple has a daughter who is a Canadian citizen.
The sentencing hearing continues Friday with submissions from Christhurajah's lawyer.