The man who killed three Mounties and injured two others in Moncton, N.B., could be out of prison sooner than expected.
Justin Bourque will now be eligible for parole after 25 years instead of 75, according to a New Brunswick Court of Appeal decision released Thursday.
Bourque plead guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the June 2014 shootings of five RCMP officers.
Const. Dave Ross, 32, Const. Fabrice Gevaudan, 45, and Const. Douglas Larche, 40, died in the incident. Two other constables — Éric Dubois and Marie Goguen — were also shot but survived their injuries.
Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years after the sentencing judge determined the parole ineligibility for the three murders should be served consecutively.
But last spring, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the section of the Criminal Code that allows for consecutive parole ineligibility in cases involving multiple murders is unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court’s decision … makes the sentence imposed on Mr. Bourque one that is neither permitted by law nor constitutional,” Chief Justice Marc Richard, Justice Kathleen Quigg and Justice Justice Denise LeBlanc wrote in their decision.
Bourque applied in December to have his sentenced reduced based on the Supreme Court ruling.
Counsel for the Attorney General also acknowledged the binding effect of the decision and agreed that the appeal must be allowed.
In its ruling, the justices said the decision is “binding on us and governs the outcome of this appeal.”
“We are duty-bound to vary the sentences such that the period of parole ineligibility be concurrent terms of 25 years,” said their ruling.
The ruling means Bourque will now be eligible for parole at age 49 rather than 99. But the appeal court said parole eligibility “does not mean he has a right to parole.”
They pointed to comments made by Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner who said the parole board “generally proceeds with care and caution” before deciding whether to release someone convicted of multiple murders back into society.
“The protection of the public is the paramount consideration in the Board’s decision-making process, but the Board also takes into account other factors such as the gravity of the offence and its impact on victims,” wrote Wagner in the Supreme Court ruling.
“It, perhaps, provides a measure of solace to know that compelling evidence of rehabilitation will be demanded before the perpetrators of such crimes will be released on parole.”