Justin Bourque gets 5 life sentences, no chance of parole for 75 years
'One of the most horrific crimes in the history of Canada,' judge says
Justin Bourque has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years for killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others, a New Brunswick judge has ruled.
It is the longest sentence in Canadian history, and the harshest since the death penalty was abolished.
Bourque's defence lawyer said he has no plans to appeal.
Bourque, 24, of Moncton, previously pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder of RCMP officers.
Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice David Smith handed down Bourque’s sentence in what he called a "difficult case."
"One of the most horrific crimes in the history of Canada," Smith told the courtroom.
All five officers were shot within a 20-minute period, he said, describing the murders as ambushes. Bourque, who was in a "blind rage" at the time, waited at the ready for police to arrive.
He only stopped because he was thirsty, tired and outgunned, said Smith.
The judge said the sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and his main concern was deterrence.
No sentence could fix the despair that Bourque caused by his shooting spree, Smith said.
But he said he wants anyone else considering a similar action to realize they could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Smith, a former member of the New Brunswick parole board, said the five life sentences are mandatory, and the only question was the length of the sentence before Bourque is eligible for parole.
With the sentence, Bourque will be 99 years old before he is eligible.
Bourque, who stood to listen to the sentence, showed no emotion.
Little remorse shown, judge says
The judge said Bourque showed little remorse for the crimes until the end of the sentencing hearing when he addressed the families.
The courtroom where Smith delivered his sentence was full. He spent the first part of his decision going over Bourque's past.
He described Bourque as being obsessed with guns, video games, heavy metal music and dependent on marijuana. The judge also suggested Bourque may have been struggling with drug withdrawal in the week before the shootings because he had run out of money to buy marijuana.
He said Bourque felt oppressed by the police even though he had no criminal record.
Two courtrooms had been opened to accommodate the large number of people who have shown up for the sentencing. A closed-circuit television feed has linked the rooms to the main courtroom.
Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc also showed up for the sentencing.
Lives 'forever changed'
Outside the Moncton courtroom, the widows of the three slain Mounties said they are grateful the court proceedings concluded so quickly, but the sentence won't change what happened on June 4, or bring back their loved ones.
"We are proud of the actions of our husbands, Doug, Dave and Fabrice. They did not hesitate to run to the danger in order to protect the community as a whole, their fellow officers, their neighbours and our families," they said.
The women said they are also grateful for all of the support they have received.
Roger Brown, the RCMP's commanding officer in New Brunswick, said he was relieved with the sentence.
"Am I happy with the verdict? I am," Brown told reporters, referring to it as "well thought through."
The sentence should help serve as a deterrent, he said, adding he was also pleased with the quick manner of the process.
Brown said it has been a difficult time for the families of the slain and wounded officers, the RCMP and people in Moncton.
"Like any crime, you can’t undo the damage inflicted on the victims — and in this case, there are many," he said.
"The healing must now start."
Judge had 'no choice'
Lutz, who had asked the court to consider parole eligibility after 50 years, described the sentence as the "only sentence" the judge could impose.
"Given all the law, given all the facts, it was the sentence that the judge had no choice to make," he said.
Bourque is "resigned" to it, said Lutz. "He's been resigned to it since the guilty plea."
Lutz described the legislation, which allows consecutive sentences for multiple murders, as being "hastily made" and said he believes no one fully understood the consequences.
Asked whether it could lead to a Charter challenge of cruel and unusual punishment, he said not in his opinion.
Lutz also urged the public not to feel any animosity toward Bourque's family, calling them "wonderful people."
"I mean, what happened here had nothing to do with the family. It was the outside influences [Bourque] put himself under," he said.
Crown requested consecutive life sentences
The Crown had asked that Bourque get three consecutive life sentences.
The Crown prosecutor said the court had to deliver a stiff penalty to "denounce these crimes," and that denunciation must be paramount over rehabilitation.
Under 2011 changes to the law affecting multiple murderers, a judge has the ability to hand down consecutive sentences.
The first case in which the revised law was used in sentencing was in 2013, when Travis Baumgartner received a 40-year sentence for killing three of his security company co-workers during a robbery
Bourque’s sentencing hearing lasted for two days earlier this week.
On June 4, Bourque went on a shooting rampage that resulted in a 28-hour lockdown in the northern section of the city.
The RCMP officers who were killed on June 4 were:
- Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John.
- Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que.
- Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, originally from Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
The RCMP officers who were wounded on June 4 were:
- Const. Éric Stéphane J. Dubois.
- Const. Marie Darlene Goguen.
During the sentencing hearing, the Crown prosecutor described all the weapons that Bourque had with him during the shootings.
The RCMP recovered two firearms, an M305 .308 rifle and Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, as well as a gas mask, a pair of binoculars, two knives and survival harness.
The court also saw a video of Bourque in a long, rambling interview with police. He was relaxed, comfortable and at times cocky, bragging about his shooting skills.
The video was taken just a couple of hours after Bourque's arrest.
At the end of the sentencing hearing, however, Bourque spoke to the families of the slain officers.
He said even though it was useless, he wanted to tell the families he's sorry.
Through tears, Bourque apologized to the families and said he took the "easy way out." He said the killings are something, "I'm going to have to live with the rest of my life.
"I am sorry. There's nothing else to say," Bourque said.