Home//In The News//Case Success: Client Avoids Forever Jail

Yoav Niv has secured a successful outcome for an indigenous client whose case was considered “hopeless”.

In Canada and England and Wales, certain convicted persons may be designated as dangerous offenders and subject to a longer, or indefinite, term of imprisonment in order to protect the public. Dangerousness in law is a legal establishment of the risk that a person poses to cause harm. Other countries, including Denmark, Norway, and parts of the United States have similar provisions of law.

The designation “dangerous offender” is reserved for Canada’s most violent criminals and sexual predators.  As of 2019–2020, there were 874 persons with the dangerous offender designation. Of these 874 designated offenders, 743 (85%) were in custody, whereas 131 (15%) were on conditional release in the community. The imposition of an indeterminate sentence is among the most severe sanctions available under Canadian criminal law. Dangerous offenders serving an indeterminate sentence become eligible for full parole after completing seven years from the date they were taken into custody. In reality, most dangerous offenders who receive an indeterminate sentence spend decades of their lives in prison with little or no real likelihood of rehabilitation leading to lasting release. For this reason, an indeterminant sentence is often referred to as “forever jail”.

On January 28, 2021, Dillon Richard Runions was designated a dangerous offender and sentenced to an indeterminate sentence.  This was a complex and high stakes criminal case that was heard in Calgary. Mr. Runions had been released from parole when, in the span of 30 days, he committed three aggravated assaults against victims with a bladed weapon. Each victim would have died had they not received medical assistance. One such attack involved an unprovoked Mr. Runions slamming a machete into the neck of his unsuspecting victim, which unleashed a torrent of blood.  At the time of the machete attack Mr. Runions was bound by an undertaking given to a police officer the he not be in possession of a weapon.

Mr. Niv did not represent Mr. Runions at his original hearing. At that time, the Crown relied on the testimony of a forensic psychitarist, Dr. Hashman. Dr. Hashman’s opinion recognized that Mr. Runions adolescence and young adult life have been characterized by a persistence of substance abuse, a strong affiliation with gang membership, repeated and seriously assaultive behaviour, and poor compliance with release conditions.  According to Dr. Hashman, Mr. Runions demonstrated limited empathy for his victims, and Dr. Hashman believed that the duration and severity of his substance abuse disorder, his antisocial personality disorder, and his disingenuous presentation with significant symptom exaggeration was such that Mr. Runions prognosis is considered to be a high risk for violent recidivism.  Mr. Runions was also identified with having cognitive deficits.

The Judge concluded that there was no realistic possibility of eventual control of Mr. Runions in the community. He ruled that there was no  reasonable expectation that Mr. Runions could be managed in the community and that there was no less restrictive means by which the public could be protected. As a result, the Judge designated Mr. Runions as a dangerous offender and sentenced him to detention in a penitentiary for an indeterminate period.

Yoav Niv agreed to represent Mr. Runions in criminal appeal after several lawyers reviewed the sentencing decision and determined that Mr. Runions’ case was “hopeless”. On January 30, 2023, the Alberta Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.  This was a high profile win that was reported in the media. The Court ruled that the Judge failed to thoroughly conduct the correct inquiry in relation to sentencing Mr. Runions and failed to turn his mind to whether considerations relating to Mr. Runion’s indigenous background and heritage could have a positive effect and improve the prospects of successfully managing the risk. The Court of Appeal ordered a new sentencing hearing.

After the successful appeal, Mr. Niv agreed to take Mr. Runion’s case for him to be sentenced anew. Mr. Niv obtained significant new information about Mr. Runion’s efforts at rehabilitation from the time he was originally sentenced on January 28, 2021. He also retained an independent forensic psychiatrist from Ontario to review the opinion of Dr. Hashman.

On April 19, 2024, Mr. Niv secured an incredible result for Mr. Runions: The Judge who original sentenced Mr. Runions to jail indefinitely agreed to release him in the year 2030 instead.

To learn more about this successful outcome and its implications, be sure to read the full article here.




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I went to Yoav last year after a difficult situation presented itself to me. He was extremely understanding and over the months that followed his experience, skill and diligence proved instrumental in ensuring that the truth in my case was shown and justice was served. I cannot possibly recommend him more highly.

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My criminal defence practice operates under the philosophy that all individuals are presumed innocent and have the right to a dedicated defence and a fair trial.

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