Alberta’s Court of Appeal has upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a man who viciously attacked a worker in his truck following a minor collision with his bicycle.
The appellant, PA, who had previously pleaded guilty, challenged the severity of his sentence.
The case stemmed from an incident on Aug. 5, 2021, in Lethbridge, Alta.
PA, riding a bicycle, collided with a work truck at an intersection. The driver had stopped the truck and, while looking left for oncoming traffic, inched the vehicle forward.
“Just then, the appellant, riding his bicycle on the sidewalk approached from the victim’s right side and entered the intersection passing in front of the truck, grazing the bumper as he rode by,” the court said.
“The appellant got off the bike and as he approached the driver’s side of the truck, withdrew a knife from his pocket and slashed the victim across his face.”
The attack led to the driver requiring 17 stitches.
PA claimed the attack was in response to a racial slur, a claim that was disputed in court.
“The sentencing judge accepted the testimony of the victim and the bystanders and found that rather than issue a racial slur, the victim expressed regret and concern for the appellant’s welfare as the appellant approached the truck screaming and yelling,” the appeal court said.
The appellant’s background
The appellant, a 46-year-old South Sudanese immigrant with a good history of employment in Alberta, has a criminal record dating back to 2006.
His record includes convictions for various offences, including assault and robbery.
Grounds of appeal
PA argued that the sentencing overly emphasized denunciation and deterrence and misinterpreted certain aggravating factors. He compared his case to others where accused individuals received more lenient sentences.
Court’s analysis and decision
The Court of Appeal acknowledged that while there might have been minor errors in the sentencing judge’s analysis, these did not significantly impact the sentence.
Key aggravating factors included the use of a weapon and the unprovoked nature of the attack in broad daylight, which contributed to public insecurity.
“It is not disputed that in response to a very minor traffic incident, where no one was hurt and no property was damaged, the appellant, without hesitation, approached the victim and slashed his face with a knife he was carrying while the victim remained, as described by the sentencing judge, trapped in the driver’s seat of his vehicle unable to escape or defend himself,” the court said.
The court emphasized society’s need to respond forcefully to such acts of violence, especially when dangerous weapons are involved.
“The proclivity of people to arm themselves with dangerous weapons, such as a knife or a gun, and the willingness to use those weapons to inflict serious injury or death when confronted with the slightest insult or dispute has become a common occurrence in Alberta,” it said.
The court disagreed with the appellant’s view that the sentence was unduly harsh, stating it appropriately reflected the seriousness of the offense and the need for public protection.
The appeal was dismissed, maintaining the original 33-month imprisonment sentence.
For more information see R v Ajang, 2023 ABCA 316 (CanLII).