Crown appeals sentence for designated dangerous offender

The Crown is appealing the sentence of a designated dangerous offender, arguing the judge made a legal error by sentencing "based on mere hope."

Prosecution suggests judge made legal error by imposing fixed sentence ‘based on mere hope’

Ashton Natomagan is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence as a designated dangerous offender. (Edmonton Police Service )

The Crown is appealing the sentence of a designated dangerous offender, arguing the judge made a legal error by sentencing "based on mere hope."

In December, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terry Clackson declared Ashton Natomagan a dangerous offender and sentenced to him to 20 years in prison, to be followed by 10 years of close community supervision.

With credit for time already served, Natomagan's sentence was reduced to 16 years and eight months.  

Natomagan had been found guilty of attacking an Edmonton woman who was out jogging in April 2015. Natomagan grabbed the 37-year-old mother of two, choked her and dragged her into an alley. He threatened to slash her with a box cutter. 

The woman was the last of Natomagan's victims. 

His 13-year history of sexual offences involved other victims, including two girls aged 11 and 16.

Natomagan, 38, has spent most of his adult life behind bars. 

"His life is one long episode of violence," Clackson wrote in his sentencing decision

"From childhood to prison, violence and substance abuse are the common denominators. Consideration for consequences to his victims or even for himself is and has been completely lacking." 

Clackson added he had no doubt that society needed to be protected from Natomagan. 

"There is a high likelihood that Mr. Natomagan will have future victims and will continue to be substantially indifferent to the likely consequences to his victims," the decision states. 

A large portion of Clackson's 31-page written decision was devoted to what the judge described as "the impact of Canada's mistreatment of Indigenous persons." 

"The potential benefits of Indigenous methods for healing, crime prevention and personal development must be considered," Clackson wrote. "His life and his personality have been directly impacted by Canada's mistreatment of his community." 

He noted that Natomagan has suffered greatly because of Canada's mistreatment of Indigenous persons. 

"His criminality is a product of those injustices," Clackson continued. "He less chose to be the man he is than his environment compelled that result. His moral culpability is, therefore, not that of one who chooses the life of a violent recidivist." 

Rather than ordering an indeterminate sentence, Clackson imposed a fixed term to reflect that, "We non-Indigenous Canadians had a hand in creating this risk." 

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terry Clackson. (Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta)

In its notice of appeal, the Crown argues the judge also erred in law by imposing a punishment that requires society to take on the risk of releasing Natomagan after he's served a fixed sentence, when the judge acknowledged Natomagan remains a high risk to sexually re-offend.

In his decision, Clackson expressed hope that once he had served his sentence, Natomagan would embark on years of sobriety and isolation under the watchful eye of an elder. 

But he noted that no program like that currently exists. 

However, the judge called it "a reasonable expectation" that over the next 17 years governments would "embrace a new paradigm for dealing with Indigenous offenders." 

The Court of Appeal has not yet scheduled a hearing. 

Natomagan remains incarcerated at Edmonton Institution. 

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston