A Kingston, Ont., teen who pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges was handed a three-year sentence on Wednesday, as an Ontario judge agreed the youth was unlikely to reoffend and commended his progress "in the face of enormous obstacles" while detained over the past two years.
With the decision, Justice Elaine Deluzio accepted a joint submission by the Crown and defence requesting the maximum youth sentence. The first two years are to be served in custody, while the third will be in the community with supervision.
That's on top of the time he's already spent in detention, Deluzio said.
"It's important to recognize that (the teen) has managed to consistently engage with school and programming through his detention in the face of enormous obstacles," she said.
"(He) has served most of his time in detention during a worldwide pandemic, which has restricted his access to family. His access to in-person counselling and programming has also been very limited."
Deluzio noted that he finished Grade 12 while in custody, despite having only eight high school credits at the time of his arrest in 2019. She said he made that progress even as he was diagnosed with a rare and highly aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
Last year, prosecutors asked the court to sentence the teen as an adult, but they changed their position after reviewing evidence presented during the sentencing hearing, including reports suggesting the youth has made "significant rehabilitative efforts."
Deluzio commended the Crown for sticking to its word and reconsidering its suggested sentence, and she accepted expert testimony that the youth is at "low risk" of reoffending.
"Low risk does not mean no risk. But I am satisfied that in this case, a maximum youth sentence of three years satisfies both the youth and the adult sentencing principles by holding (the teen) accountable while reducing the risk of harm to the community," Deluzio said.
The teen, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was 16 when he was arrested by RCMP in January 2019 following a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An agreed statement of facts said the teen unwittingly communicated with an FBI undercover agent he believed to be a "lone wolf" terrorist in Virginia, and sent him instructions on how to build a pressure-cooker bomb.
The statement said the teen also encouraged the agent to plant the bomb in a public place, such as a bar, to kill "enemies of Allah."
No bomb was planted but the statement said a search of the youth's home found all the materials needed to create one.
The youth pleaded guilty in 2020 to facilitating a terrorist activity, possession of an explosive substance with intent to injure or kill, taking action to cause an explosion and counselling another person to detonate an explosive device to cause injury or death.
--with files from Paola Loriggio.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2022.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press