Alberta Court of Appeal lengthens prison term for sex offender Matthew McKnight
Edmonton nightclub promoter Matthew McKnight's prison sentence for sexually assaulting five women has been increased to 11 years.
The Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled Wednesday that the eight-year sentence imposed on McKnight in 2020 wasn't adequate given that McKnight had been convicted of five major sexual assaults against five different women over a period of six years.
"While the trial judge sought to avoid a sentence that was too harsh, the totality reduction resulted in a sentence that is lenient to the point of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice," the three judges on the appeal court panel found in a 12-page ruling filed Wednesday.
In January 2020, following a lengthy trial in which he was accused of having assaulted 13 women ranging in age from 17 to 22, a jury convicted McKnight of sexually assaulting five women.
McKnight was sentenced in July 2020 by Court of King's Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma.
Sulyma found that a cumulative sentence of 16½ years would have been appropriate, but lowered it to eight years. The judge cited McKnight's youth, his potential for rehabilitation and an assault on McKnight by another inmate while he was being held in the Edmonton Remand Centre along with other mitigating factors.
The Crown appealed the length of the sentence. At an appeal hearing in February, Crown prosecutors argued that McKnight's sentence should be increased to 15 years.
McKnight's counsel, Peter Sankoff, argued that Sulyma had had sufficient information to arrive at her original sentence.
In the Wednesday ruling, the appeal court found that while there wasn't an error in taking time off for the jailhouse assault against McKnight, the rest of the reduction went too far.
The appeal court also noted that there was a clear pattern to the assaults through the involvement of alcohol, which was at times provided to the victims by McKnight.
"There was a predatory aspect to the assaults, because the respondent invited the young complainants into his home for an evening of socializing, took advantage of their vulnerability, and subjected them to major violations of their personal integrity," the decision reads.
"The gravity of these offences was high, as was the moral culpability of the respondent."
In an interview Wednesday, Sankoff said the appeal decision is a "mixed bag."
"We feel gratified they didn't raise it to the 15 [years] that was requested, so as a result they upheld most of what the trial judge did," Sankoff said. "On balance, given what it could have been, we're pleased, but obviously disappointed that it was raised at all."
Sankoff said he hasn't spoken to McKnight about the decision yet, but said the increase of three years will not have a major impact on how much time he has left to serve before being eligible to apply for parole.
"At the end of the day, he's going to be eligible for full parole sometime in early 2024," Sankoff said.
McKnight, who has been serving his sentence at the Bowden Institution, lost an earlier appeal for a new trial in Alberta.
In January, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected McKnight's application for the top court to hear the appeal for a new trial.