Sympathetic judge jails N.S. man who shot son: 'I truly feel terrible for you'

HALIFAX -- Michael Paul Dockrill accidentally shot and killed his son with a rifle the young man had given him for protection during a 2011 drug robbery.

See Full Article

On Friday, he cried softly as he was sentenced to four years in prison by a judge who was sympathetic but clear-eyed about where the blame lies.

"I truly feel terrible for you," Justice Josh Arnold said as he concluded his three-hour sentencing in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

"You changed your world forever on June 12, 2011, when you fired that shot. Hopefully, in the future drug dealers and the families with whom they live will be less likely to take the law into their own hands and arm themselves with guns."

Dockrill hugged emotional relatives moments before sheriffs placed him in handcuffs and escorted him out of the Halifax courtroom in front of his remaining son and daughter.

Arnold's decision upholds the minimum mandatory sentence for gun crimes. Dockrill was convicted in April of criminal negligence causing death for shooting his son 20-year-old son, Jason.

Court heard that the young man had been living with his father and dealing drugs out of their basement when he was warned that someone was threatening to steal marijuana and money from the home.

Arnold said Jason had given his father a .30-.30 Winchester rifle for protection, weeks before Dockrill was awakened to someone standing over him in bed and threatening to rob him.

Court heard that Jason Dockrill was in the basement with a friend when intruders kicked down the door and cocked a gun before one of them went into the basement and asked for the money.

One witness said the intruder hit Jason Dockrill in the head with a gun, causing it to go off before he fled the house.

In a profanity-laced statement Dockrill gave to police, he said he grabbed the loaded gun and fired as someone scrambled out the front door, claiming his eyes may have been shut as he pulled the trigger and mistakenly felled his son with a bullet that entered the top of his shoulder.

"Michael Dockrill was acting as an outlaw," Arnold said. "Instead of contacting the authorities to deal with a possible home invasion, Jason Dockrill and Michael Dockrill loaded up for an armed vigilante conflict."

Arnold dismissed the defence's argument that the minimum sentence violated Dockrill's Charter rights, citing several other criminal negligence cases involving firearms that upheld the four-year term.

Brian Church, Dockrill's lawyer, argued that he should not face the mandatory minimum sentence because he's already living "in a prison of grief."

He declined to comment as he left court, while Dockrill opted not to address the court.

Crown attorney Rick Woodburn, who was seeking a five- to seven-year sentence, said outside court that it was wrong to refer to the matter as an accidental shooting, as Dockrill intended to shoot someone.

"He meant to kill a home invader and, in turn, killed his son. That's tragic," he said. "When somebody has a drug operation going on inside a house and they want to protect it, arming yourself and shooting invaders is not self-defence and is not an accident."

The mandatory minimum sentence of four years for gun crimes was enacted as part of the former Harper government's 2008 criminal justice reforms.

The Crown had argued that Dockrill mishandled a loaded weapon, and the mandatory minimum sentence sends a message that care needs to be taken when using a firearm.

The judge agreed.

"This tragedy is precisely why Canada has such stringent gun laws," he said. "In this case, Michael Dockrill fired an instrument specifically designed for killing...His regret is that in shooting blindly, he killed his son and not a home invader."


Latest Canada & World News

  • Bulldozers start demolishing Calais migrant camp

    World News CTV News
    CALAIS, France -- Bulldozers have started demolishing the makeshift migrant camp in the French port city of Calais, one day after authorities declared it empty. Work intensified on Thursday to remove the tents and shelters, shops and restaurants at the site, until recently a sprawling temporary home to thousands of people trying to go to Britain. Source
  • UNICEF calls airstrike on school a potential war crime

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT - The UN Children's agency called the airstrikes in Syria's rebel-held northern Idlib province a day earlier an "outrage", suggesting it may be the deadliest attack on a school since the country's war began nearly six years ago. Source
  • British economy didn't take a hit in 1st quarter since Brexit vote

    World News CBC News
    Britain's economy grew more than expected in the third quarter despite uncertainty in the aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union. The Office of National Statistics said Thursday that Britain's economy grew by a quarterly rate of 0.5 per cent in the July-September period. Source
  • Why Donald Trump's path to win the Keystone State runs uphill

    World News CBC News
    A light rain drizzled down on Donald Trump supporters as they boarded a bus in a grocery store parking lot in York, Pa. Near the back, George Flinn sat with his wife and said he was looking forward to the rally he was going to for Mike Pence, the running mate of the Republican candidate for the U.S. Source
  • What's happening in Muskrat Falls? Here's a primer

    Canada News CBC News
    The fight over the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador appears to have stopped short of reaching a crisis point — including fears around the fate of three protesters staging a hunger strike — for now. Source
  • CMHC plays catch-up with vaguely alarming house price warning: Don Pittis

    Canada News CBC News
    Warnings about the Canadian property market are nothing new. International business publications and global banks have been calling it a bubble for years. Nobody listened. Now that the Crown corporation that insures residential mortgages, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, has added its voice with what turns out to be a mushy and moderate warning, will anybody listen? Source
  • Justin Trudeau protest marks 'turning point' for frustrated youth

    Canada News CBC News
    Tuesday's protests against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reflect a growing discontent over a lack of Liberal action on affordable education and jobs for young Canadians, youth leaders say. And they warn that more demonstrations are likely on the way. Source
  • Gingrich is above discussing sex lives of politicians? That's a howler: Keith Boag

    World News CBC News
    With stunning hypocrisy Newt Gingrich slammed FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly Tuesday night for, in his view, putting prurience ahead of public policy in her coverage of the U.S. presidential race. Gingrich scolded Kelly for framing her question about Donald Trump's nosedive in opinion polls around whether the Republican nominee is a sexual predator. Source
  • Early voting shows good news for Clinton in key battlegrounds

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - Millions of votes that have been cast already in the U.S. presidential election point to an advantage for Hillary Clinton in critical battleground states. Data compiled by The Associated Press also show signs of Democratic strength in traditionally Republican territory. Source
  • Montreal borough to adopt bylaw in bid to stem tide of gentrification

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - A gritty Montreal neighbourhood with roots that date back to the industrialization of Canada is trying to stop itself from turning into an enclave of trendy, upscale restaurants and little else. A zoning bylaw set for a final vote on Tuesday would prevent new restaurants from setting up within 25 metres of an existing establishment. Source