Jail time for man convicted in nail-gun case would violate rights, lawyer says

·2 min read
Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton, N.S., was found guilty of assault with a weapon and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.  (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton, N.S., was found guilty of assault with a weapon and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The lawyer for a Nova Scotia man who shot a co-worker with a nail gun argues his client's charter rights would be violated if he is sent to jail, a sentence that's currently required under federal mandatory minimum sentencing provisions.

Shawn Wade Hynes was convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon for shooting Nhlanhla Dlamini with a framing nailer at a construction site in Abercrombie, N.S., on Sept. 19, 2018. Dlamini suffered a punctured lung.

Hynes was tried and convicted following a trial in Nova Scotia provincial court in Pictou in September 2019. Sentencing has been delayed several times, first to allow the filing of victim impact statements, then because of COVID-19 and finally to advance the constitutional arguments.

Those arguments have been complicated by a recent Ontario court ruling which found the mandatory minimum sentences in Ottawa's Safe Streets and Communities Act, which was passed in 2012, violate Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees life, liberty and the security of the person.

The act does not allow conditional sentences, such as house arrest, for certain types of offences, including some that result in bodily harm or where a weapon is used.

In a sentencing hearing Wednesday morning in Pictou, Crown and defence lawyers in the Hynes case argued how much weight Judge Del Atwood should give to the Ontario decision and to the charter arguments in general. The Ontario case of Cheyenne Sharma is being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Nhlanhla Dlamini, shown in 2018, was shot with a nail gun by a co-worker. He suffered a punctured lung.
Nhlanhla Dlamini, shown in 2018, was shot with a nail gun by a co-worker. He suffered a punctured lung. (Steve Berry/CBC)

In arguing against a custodial sentence for Hynes, lawyer Andrew O'Blenis pointed to his client's character.

"He is held in high regard by his employer, friends and family," O'Blenis wrote on behalf of Hynes. "He lives a pro-social, quiet life."

O'Blenis said Hynes has suffered a great deal from the attention the case has generated, including allegations of racism. Hynes is white, Dlamini is black. O'Blenis said there have been online threats made against Hynes and his family.

The Crown argued that even if Hynes's charter rights are infringed by the mandatory minimum, the infringement is reasonable because of the need for denunciation and deterrence for a crime like this. Crown prosecutor Bill Gorman has asked for a sentence of 12-15 months, followed by probation of up to 18 months.

Atwood has reserved his decision until April 23. Because of public interest in the case, that decision may be live-streamed because pandemic restrictions limit the number of people who can be present in the courtroom.

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