Last week, Bruce McArthur (“McArthur”) pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight men who disappeared between 2010 and 2017 in Toronto’s Gay Village.
At his sentencing hearing this week, an agreed statement of facts was presented to the court. In the statement, McArthur admitted that he intended to kill all eight men and afterward dismembered the men to avoid getting caught. He admitted that six were sexual in nature and that he kept some of his victims’ personal items as “souvenirs” and “staged” some of his victims.
AGREED STATEMENT OF FACTS
The following are some of the facts included in the Agreed Statement of Facts that were presented before Justice John McMahon in the Ontario Superior Court:
- McArthur intended and caused each of the eight deaths;
- Each of the murders was planned and deliberate and the murders were committed in the course of sexually assaulting the victims or committed while the victims were unlawfully confined;
- The investigation found a duffle bag in McArthur’s bedroom containing duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a black bungee cord, and syringes;
- To avoid detection, McArthur dismembered his victims’ bodies; and
- McArthur disposed of the body parts at 53 Mallory Crescent in Toronto, where he worked as a gardener, placing some of the body parts in planters or in the ravine adjacent to the property.
ACCEPTANCE OF A GUILTY PLEA
According to the Criminal Code, a conviction or finding of guilt is not entered until the court accepts the plea.
Under section 606(1.1) of the Criminal Code, a plea of guilty can only be accepted if the Court is satisfied of the following:
- That the accused is making the plea voluntarily; and
- That the accused understands that the plea is an admission of the elements of the offence; and
- That the accused understands the nature and consequences of the plea; and
- That the accused understands that the court is not bound by any agreement made between the accused and the Crown prosecutor.
Therefore, for a guilty plea to be valid it must possess all of the following features:
- Information of the nature of the allegations; and
- Informed of the consequences of the plea.
Justice McMahon began McArthur’s court proceedings last week by confirming that McArthur understood what is meant to plead guilty and warned him that he could not plead guilty to things he did not do just to get his case over with. McArthur replied “Yes”, when asked if he understood that he was giving up his right to a trial.
McArthur confirmed that he was not pressured by family, friends, lawyers or police officers to plead guilty.
Justice McMahon explained that McArthur would be sentenced to life imprisonment. He specifically asked, “So, you understand you’ll have to serve at least until you’re 91 before you could be eligible to apply for parole?” McArthur responded, “Yes, your honour.”
Once a guilty plea has been entered, there is no burden on the Crown prosecutor to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, a guilty plea also terminates any procedural rights, rights of appeal or the ability to challenge the ruling of guilt.
PROSECUTORS SEEK CONSECUTIVE LIFE SENTENCES
Crown prosecutors have asked the Superior Court of Justice to sentence McArthur to two consecutive life sentences for the eight murders that McArthur committed. This means that McArthur will be behind bars until he is 116 years old, without a chance for parole.
Assistant Crown attorney Craig Harper (“Harper”) argued that McArthur’s crimes were heinous, he preyed on the vulnerable and “[h]e spread fear in a community that, regardless of its multiple strengths, struggles with a tenuous sense of safety.”
In support of his request for two consecutive life sentences, Harper also put before the court that permitting McArthur a parole hearing in 25 years would mean that the families of his victims may have to face him again in court.
McArthur’s lawyer, on the other hand, requested that the court sentence his client to serve all eight sentences concurrently. This would mean that McArthur would serve all the sentences at the same time.
It is the position of McArthur’s defence lawyer that due to his age it is not necessary to extend his parole eligibility beyond the minimum 25 years, which comes with a life sentence. This means he would not be able to apply for parole until he was at least 91 years old. He argues that a longer sentence will be “unduly harsh”.
Justice McMahon will soon make a decision on McArthur’s sentence and we will provide updates in this blog as the information becomes available.
In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are available when you need us most.