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N.S. top court: judges must consider systemic racism when sentencing Black offenders

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Nova Scotia’s top court has ruled that trial judges must consider the historical disadvantages and systemic racism facing Black offenders when issuing sentences.

Justice Anne S. Derrick, on behalf of a five-judge Court of Appeal panel, said inquiring about the systemic issues facing African Nova Scotians could help reduce the levels of incarceration in that community.

READ MORE: Yes, there is systemic racism in Canada — our history is filled with it

The Appeal Court ruling follows a change to the Criminal Code in 1996 requiring judges during sentencing to consider the particular circumstances of Indigenous offenders.

The ruling released last week involved the case of Rakeem Rayshon Anderson, a Black man who was found guilty on five firearm-related charges in June 2019. Police had found a .22-calibre revolver in his waistband following a traffic stop in November 2018.

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Provincial court Chief Judge Pamela Williams in February 2020 handed Anderson a conditional sentence of two years less a day, along with two years’ probation. She said her sentencing decision was supported by the results of a race and culture assessment on Anderson.

The Crown, which had appealed Williams’s decision, had said it wasn’t looking to overturn the sentence but wanted guidance on the lower court judge’s ruling.

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