Quebec’s highest court has declared consecutive life sentences to be unconstitutional, reducing the sentence given to the man who murdered six people in a Quebec City mosque in 2017.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 30, was sentenced in February 2019 to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 40 years.
Thursday’s decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal means he will be eligible to apply for parole after serving 25 years, though it doesn’t guarantee parole would be granted.
In sentencing Bissonnette, Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot had effectively rewritten the law, which since 2011 has allowed judges to impose consecutive life sentences for multiple murders and stack parole eligibility in blocks of 25 years.
Huot said that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and settled on a period of 40 years in prison before Bissonnette could apply for parole.
The three-judge Appeal Court panel agreed that the consecutive sentencing provision violates Canada’s version of the Bill of Rights, but it decided that Huot erred in rewriting the law to allow for a 40-year period.
They said that with that provision of the Criminal Code invalidated, the sentence must be imposed according to the law as it stood before 2011, meaning Bissonnette can apply for parole after 25 years in prison.
Bissonnette pleaded guilty in March 2018 to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder. His victims were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; and Ibrahima Barry, 39.