Sentence extended for ex-Edmonton bar manager guilty of sexual assault

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Sentence extended for former Edmonton bar manager guilty of sexual assault

In January, the Supreme Court of Canada denied Matthew McKnight's application for leave to appeal for a new trial.

The Alberta Court of Appeal on Wednesday extended the prison sentence of Matthew McKnight, convicted of sexual assault in 2020, by three years. The court ruled that the initial sentence of eight years in prison was not sufficient, given that the accused is guilty of five major sexual assaults against five different women over a period of six years.

Although the trial judge sought to avoid an overly harsh sentence, the reduced jail time total made the judgment too lenient, to the point of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice, said the three judges of the Court of Appeals in the decision handed down on Wednesday.

During the trial in January 2020, Judge Doreen Sulyma of the Court of King's Bench explained that a prison sentence of 16½ years would have been appropriate.

However, it reduced the length of the sentence to 8 years because of mitigating circumstances, including the defendant's youth, his ability to rehabilitate and the fact that he had been victim of an assault at the Edmonton Remand Center.

The Court of Appeal held that a sentence reduction was not wrong in light of the assault experienced by Mr. McKnight, but that the time taken away was excessive. She also pointed out that the sexual assaults committed by Matthew McKnight had a clear pattern involving alcohol, sometimes offered by the accused himself.

There is predatory behavior associated with the assaults since the respondent invited the young complainants to his home for an evening of socializing, he took advantage of their vulnerability and subjected them to major violations of their personal integrity, can we read in the decision of the Court of Appeal.

Matthew McKnight's lawyer, Peter Sankoff, says Judge Doreen Sulyma had enough evidence to reach her judgment in 2020, although that he is satisfied that the prison sentence has not been extended to 15 years as requested by the Crown.

“Overall and considering the possible outcome, we are happy, but obviously disappointed that [the prison sentence] has been extended.

— Peter Sankoff, Defense Counsel

Mt Sankoff says three-year extension will not have major impact on eligibility date of the accused to apply for parole, which is in early 2024.

With information from Paige Parsons

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