Mr. Trapasso committed two robberies two days apart. He first robbed a convenience store, stealing $500. Two days later, he robbed a bank while his face was covered with a bandanna. In total, he robbed from three bank tellers, netting about $12,000. “Starting point” sentencing decisions in Alberta suggest a guideline of three years of gaol for convenience store robberies (R. v. Johnas, 1982 ABCA 331) and four years gaol for bank robberies (R. v. Brennan, 2003 ABCA 300). The accused had a lengthy criminal record and some factors of the bank robbery, in particular, suggested that a sentence higher than the starting point would be appropriate.
The sentencing judge had imposed two five year sentences on the robberies, making them concurrent to each other. A shorter concurrent sentence had also been ordered for committing an offence while disguised.
The Crown appealed the sentence, arguing that the sentence ought not to have treated these criminal acts as a “spree”, resulting in the imposition of a global sentence which was below the appropriate range. The Court of Appeal agreed in a reserved judgment (2014 ABCA 66) and imposed a global sentence of seven years gaol (three years for the convenience store robbery, four consecutive for the bank robbery, and one year concurrent for wearing a disguise during the bank robbery). In reaching that decision, the Court of Appeal made several important points about when multiple offences should be considered a “spree”, and what effect that should have on sentencing:
- The concept of imposing concurrent sentences for a “spree” is a modification and extension of the principle that concurrent sentences should be imposed where those offences are part of a single transaction: para. 14.
- The concept of concurrent sentences for multiple offences that are not part of a single transaction but which occurred close in time and sharing a similar factual nexus was applied mostly in cases of youthful offenders or petty offenders who have committed several property offences over a short period of time under similar circumstances: para. 15.
- Occasionally, concurrent sentences have been imposed in the case of multiple offences of violence that are closely linked in time and circumstances; however, great caution must be taken when considering this: para. 15.
- Poorly considered use of the concept of the “spree” can lead to undervaluing certain offences in the sentencing, leading to “a suggestion that crime is cheaper by the dozen”: para. 15.
The Court of Appeal found that the spree concept did not fit with the circumstances of Mr. Trapasso. On this, the Court stated:
… The robberies were conducted while under the influence of heroin two days apart, robberies committed for the purpose of obtaining monies to feed a drug addiction. However, the planning and deliberation of the second offence, including the purchase of gloves and a bag, the pre-ordering of a taxi to act as get-away, the purchase of razor blades and rubbing alcohol to clean the marked bills, and the subsequent considered attempt to launder the money at two different casinos undercuts any sense of impulsivity and at best frays the single transaction concept.