'It allows no hope for him': Saretzky sentence too long, says criminal defence lawyer

Former Crown prosecutor turned criminal defence lawyer says Saretzky sentence too long and may go to the Supreme Court of Canada

Triple-murderer Derek Saretzky sentenced to 75 years without parole

Derek Saretzky, top right, has been sentenced to 75 years without parole for the first-degree murders of Hanne Meketech, bottom right, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and her father Terry Blanchette, left. (Facebook/RCMP)

Derek Saretzky, the convicted triple-murderer found guilty of killing 69-year-old Hanne Meketech, Terry Blanchette and his daughter Hailey-Dunbar Blanchette, was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 75 years on Wednesday.

He is one of only a handful of Canadians to receive three consecutive life sentences since the legislation was introduced, including triple-murderer Douglas Garland, convicted in Calgary earlier this year.

Balfour Der, a Calgary-based criminal defence lawyer and former Crown prosecutor, spoke with CBC Calgary News at 6 about the case and when the appropriateness of handing out the maximum sentence.

Q: What's your reaction to this sentence?

Not surprised, I certainly don't agree with it but I'm not surprised at the outcome.

Q: Why don't you agree with it?

I take issues not with the fact that there's a life sentence or even an extended period of parole ineligibility. 

I take issue with such a long period of parole ineligibility because he's too young a man at this point in time… and it allows no hope for him whatsoever.

Two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette was found dead in a rural area near Blairmore on Sept. 15, 2015. (Amanda Blanchette)

It takes all hope away from him. I believe it should be left to the parole board in 25, 30 years to take a look at this fellow again to see whether he could be released on parole. 

He could become a productive member of society. But today, to sort of forecast the future by saying 75 years, you can't ask for parole until you're 99, forecloses everything for him. 

Q: People might ask why should he have hope, he killed three people including a little girl — what would you say to them? 

I say to that, our system of justice in Canada has a number of principles that it's based on, and two of them are that we extend mercy and we use restraint.

It's a hard concept with most people because the accused didn't do that with his victim. He didn't extend that mercy or restraint.

But still, we don't in our system stoop to the lowest common denominator… We have a standard that we like to uphold and our system is to give people a chance.

Q: What about deterrence? Isn't a true life sentence more of a deterrence?

Studies shave shown over time... that jail doesn't really deter anyone. How long ago was it Garland was sentenced in his crime?

Defence lawyer Balfour Der, a former Crown prosecutor, argues Derek Saretzky's sentence was too harsh. (CBC)

Q: We saw in the Douglas Garland case he was attacked in prison — do you think the same will happen with Saretzky?

​I think it would be almost inevitable, it's probably only just a matter of time before that happens. Whether it's at one prison or another, once word gets out he's a child killer, he'll have a target on him for sure.

Q: Sarekzky's lawyer has said he thinks the law allowing for these consecutive sentences will be challenged at the Supreme Court. If it is do you think it will stand?

I expect it'll go up there.

It may not go up on a constitutional challenge that you cannot have consecutive sentences because I think it's fair that you can up the ante, you know, up the penalty if there are multiple convictions or multiple murders. 

Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette was 'a little water baby' according to her aunt, and her dad took her on lots of adventures to rivers, streams and lakes in the area around Crowsnest Pass, Alta. (Amanda Blanchette)

But I think it could go to the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue of when is it appropriate to start handing out these maximum sentences like this? When is it the right time to do that?

Because here, you have a fellow who is 24 at the time. If his parole and eligibility were 25 years or 30 years, he's a completely different person 30 years from now.

When hes 54-years-old, he's got maturity, hes got some life experience — as much as you can get in a jail.

Q: Will he really be a completely different person though?

Well, that would be up to the parole authorities to determine. That's their job.

Q: What did the judge have to consider in deciding his sentence?

Well it's part of the Criminal Code that the judge in this type of sentencing will ask for a recommendation from the jury. Sometimes juries make no recommendation, some say this amount, some say that amount.

But the judge has to consider that as part of his calculation on parole and eligibility, but he doesn't have to follow it. 

The jury's recommendation is just one factor for a judge to put into the mix. 

With files from CBC Calgary News at 6:00