Gunville sentenced to jail, probation

The accused in the Amber Alert case from last fall has been sentenced to two years less a day, plus probation.

Johnathan Gunville was sentenced in provincial court Wednesday for 13 counts against him, including the most serious count: abandonment of a child.

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Judge Bruce Bauer imposed sentence on Gunville. The total global jail sentence is 31 months, reduced by 230 days of remand credit, leaving exactly two years less a day left to run from that point.

Three years of probation follows Gunville's release and will include numerous conditions including consenting to programming for addictions, personal counseling, and medical appointments.

Gunville also received one-year concurrent sentences for charges of theft of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle in a manner dangerous to the public, and operating a motor vehicle while disqualified, in connection to the Sept. 16 Amber Alert incident. Gunville also received 20 months concurrent for flight from police from Sept. 20 as well as one-year concurrent sentences for operating a motor vehicle in a manner dangerous to the public, operating a motor vehicle while disqualified, and possession of stolen property exceeding $5,000.

He also received six months each for three breach of probation counts from that week, and for two assaults from Nov. 2 and 4 while in custody at Saskatoon Correctional Centre. These also run concurrently.

A five year driving prohibition and a two year weapons prohibition was also imposed, as was an order for a DNA sample. Gunville is also ordered not to have contact with the six-year-old child, whose name remains under a court-imposed publication ban.

As for where Gunville will serve his sentence, it will be in the provincial system. Bauer has made a recommendation that Gunville serve his time in Saskatchewan Hospital. 

All remaining charges against Gunville including those of abduction of a person under the age of 14, as well as unlawful confinement, were stayed by the Crown at the conclusion of sentencing.

The sentencing brings a conclusion to the charges  from the incident on the evening of Sept. 16 that sparked an Amber Alert, where a vehicle containing a six-year-old autistic girl in the passenger seat was stolen by Gunville from a strip mall in North Battleford. The Amber Alert prompted a massive search effort in the community. The girl was later found safe 14 hours afterwards inside the abandoned vehicle in the industrial area. 

In imposing sentence Bauer pointed to aggravating factors that included the fact that Gunville had stolen a vehicle, discovered a child in the back seat, abandoned the child and endangered her life on a night when temperatures dropped to 1 degree Celsius. He had also driven erratically to evade police a few days later and assaulted two persons while in custody. 

Gunville's personal circumstances were also taken into account, with Bauer noting Gunville had been a victim of neglect and abuse, had become a permanent ward of the ministry by age 13, and had been diagnosed by age 15 of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder as well as addiction and depression. It was stated that Gunville was at a grade three level. Bauer also said there was a need for ongoing consistent daily monitoring of Gunville, and noted Gunville was unable to maintain a residence.

In imposing sentence Bauer particularly noted the focus must be on protecting the public by separating the accused from society, while also assisting in rehabilitation. With respect to the abandonment charge, Baure said "denunciation and deterrence are primary factors for offences against children."

The sentencing took place on what was Gunville's 20th birthday. Gunville, who has remained in custody since his arrest, wore an orange shirt as he sat in court beside his lawyer Bill Archer while the sentence was imposed by Bauer in courtroom #2.

Gunville's mother Tammy Lavallee was also in court to support her son. After sentencing concluded and after Gunville was led away in handcuffs, Lavallee left courtroom #2 in tears.

Archer had previously called for a provincial sentence for Gunville with his sentence to be served in Saskatchewan Hospital. The Crown had called for a federal penitentiary sentence of three years.

In the end, the judge largely sided with Archer's submissions. But as Archer noted to reporters afterwards, his client was still going to be serving time. 

"In some ways it's a victory but it doesn't feel like that," Archer said. "No matter how you shake this out, this is a sad case."

He said there were "two kids in that car that day, and one of them is going to jail for a considerable period of time."

Archer said the sentencing ruling by Bauer was a "fair and balanced decision... in that sense I feel good about it." He was happy that the judge recommended Gunville serve in Saskatchewan Hospital, where he's "functioned well before." But more important to Archer was that Gunville was not going to a federal penitentiary.  

"I worried about him getting chewed up and spit out there. Thankfully that's not going to occur here."

Crown prosecutor Lee Hnatiuk expressed relief the case was finally wrapped up. 

"It was a difficult case, I think, for everybody," said Hnatiuk. "This case really exemplified all of the different factors that the court had to consider."

What heartened Hnatiuk was the community's response.

"The bright line for all of this for me is that the case highlights is that we have a community here that came out to look for a young child that was missing. We have a community that called in reports when there was dangerous driving in the community. What all that shows to me is that we have a community with a lot of heart, and that the community is willing to come together when needed to help each other out. And I think that's something that needs to be remembered and reflected."


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