Analysis: Why the B.C. Prosecution Service must appeal the sentence imposed on COVIDiot who ran illegal boozecan

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      B.C. is at record levels of hospitalization for COVID-19. Of the 515 people suffering in wards with this wretched illness, 171 are in critical or intensive care.

      COVID-19 has taken more than 24,000 Canadians' lives.

      So why didn't a jackass who operated an illegal nightclub in his Vancouver penthouse condo spend any serious time in jail?

      There were 78 people inside Mohammad Movassaghi's unlicensed "Granny's Exotic Bar" when police arrived in January. It was reportedly his third offence.

      This illegal operation threatened the health of other residents of the building, not to mention anyone who might have come in contact with patrons or staff.

      Judge Ellen Gordon pinned responsibility for her one-day sentence on a Crown prosecutor who didn't ask that the accused spend more time in jail.

      "Had Crown been seeking a period of incarceration, you need to know I would have imposed it," Gordon said, according to CBC News.

      That's a copout.

      The Provincial Court Act and the Public Health Act do not impose restrictions on a judge's powers to sentence based on Crown submissions. Not even when there are agreements reached between Crown and defence lawyers.

      Under section 105(1) of the Public Health Act, a sentencing judge "may request a joint submission". And this can set out circumstances that should be considered and the penalty to be imposed.

      But there's no legal requirement for the judge to follow that recommendation.

      Video: Watch CTV's report about the condo owner being arrested in January.

      Keep in mind the language that Gordon used in lambasting Movassaghi.

      The judge said that if anyone had died as a result of contracting COVID-19 in his makeshift bar, he would have committed manslaughter. She compared his actions to those who sell fentanyl to people who die on the streets every day.

      But her actions—giving him just one day in jail—speak louder than any of her words.

      And the one-day jail term sends a very loud message to the public about the gravity with which B.C. courts deal with COVIDiots who jeopardize others' health.

      Under the Public Health Act, a judge may impose a penalty for the purpose of punishing an offender if his actions were committed "knowingly or deliberately". That didn't happen.

      Penalties for the purpose of punishment may also be imposed on those who are "reckless as to the commission of the offence". That didn't happen.

      Video: Watch the CBC News report about the police bust at the building.

      Under section 99 (3), a person commits an offence by causing a health hazard.

      That person is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding $3 million and/or a prison sentence of up to three years.

      What did Movassaghi get? Just one day in jail, more than $5,000 in fines, and 50 hours of community service.

      CBC News journalist Jason Proctor reported that this was on top of the seven days that Movassaghi spent in jail last month for breaching the terms of his release.

      The one-day sentence was Judge Gordon's decision—and no one else's. Hardly a deterrence to anyone else considering opening an illegal boozecan.

      All of her bleating about the prosecutor not asking for a longer sentence does not absolve Gordon of full responsibility for giving Movassaghi a judicial slap on the wrist.

      The B.C. Prosecution Service in the Ministry of Attorney General can appeal this sentence. It may not succeed because of the Crown's agreement with the accused person's lawyer, who happened to be his own brother, in the pre-sentence report.

      But come on. A rich guy turns his penthouse into a nightclub where people paid for drinks in the midst of a pandemic? He pays a measly fine and gets one day in jail? His brother defends in him court, which means any of his legal bills stayed in the family?

      If any case has the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute, this one has all the earmarks.

      For that reason alone, the Crown needs to appeal the sentence. And Attorney General David Eby needs to hold a news conference announcing this.

      Let a superior court justice look dispassionately at the evidence and come to a conclusion.

      There's a reason why the statue of Lady Justice is blindfolded at the B.C. Supreme Court building in downtown Vancouver.

      That's to send a message to the public that everyone is supposed to be equal under the law.