Appeal Court increases prison time for Edmonton club promoter in sex assault case

EDMONTON — Alberta's top court has increased the sentence of a former club promoter convicted of sexually assaulting five women to 11 years in prison.

Matthew McKnight was sentenced to eight years after he was convicted in 2020 of the assaults that happened in Edmonton between 2010 and 2016.

In a unanimous decision released Wednesday, the panel of three justices said the eight-year sentence "does not adequately send a symbolic, collective statement that (McKnight's) conduct should be punished for encroaching on our society's basic code of values."

Last month, the Crown asked the Court of Appeal of Alberta to sentence McKnight to 15 years, arguing that he was premeditative in offering women free alcohol at the bars where he was working before he assaulted them at his downtown apartment. His victims were between the ages of 18 and 22.

"Even though the jury apparently did not accept the Crown's theory that (McKnight) had embarked on a plan to sexually assault multiple women, there was clearly a pattern involved," said the decision.

The Crown also argued that the gravity of the offences was not properly assessed and that an eight-year sentence was not severe enough.

The starting point for jail time in a major sexual assault is three years, cited the decision.

Justice Doreen Sulyma, who originally sentenced McKnight after a four-month jury trial, had said he was "a first-time offender of previous good character," adding that he was "very repentant."

The Crown had originally asked at trial that McKnight serve 22 1/2 years, arguing that drugs were used in the assaults. The use of drugs was not proven in court.

The Appeal Court said that the 11-year sentence properly reflects the gravity of the offences.

"While the trial judge sought to avoid a sentence that was too harsh, (it) resulted in a sentence that is lenient to the point of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice," said the decision.

McKnight was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison but was credited time due to an assault that occurred at the Edmonton Remand Centre, which the court said authorities attempted to cover up, and his compliance with rigorous bail conditions.

The Appeal Court also reduced a lifetime Sexual Offender Information Registration Act order imposed by Sulyma on McKnight to 20 years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2023.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Angela Amato, The Canadian Press