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Paramedics who treated fatally wounded teen receive 18 months' conditional sentence

Two Hamilton paramedics who treated a fatally wounded teen as though he had suffered a minor injury "deprived him of his only possible chance of survival" but didn't set out to harm him or treat him negligently, an Ontario judge said in sentencing them to 18 months served in the community.  

Ontario Superior Court Justice Harrison Arrell handed out his sentence Tuesday in the case of Christopher Marchant, 33, and Steven Snively, 56, who were found guilty last year of failing to provide the necessaries of life to Yosif Al-Hasnawi.

Prosecutors alleged that the pair approached Al-Hasnawi on the night of Dec. 2, 2017 with the "preconceived notion" he had only a superficial injury from a BB or pellet gun.

But the 19-year-old had in fact been shot with a handgun, and died in hospital about an hour later.

During trial, defence lawyers argued Marchant and Snively had an "honest" belief that Al-Hasnawi had been shot with a BB gun, based on the information they received from first responders and witnesses. They argued the pair's actions did not represent a "marked departure" from the standards of care when considered in that context.

The judge said the two men – who have since lost their jobs with the Hamilton Paramedic Service – did not treat the situation as seriously as they should have, partly because they believed Yosif had a psychiatric or a substance abuse issue.

As a result, they failed to follow several key protocols, including on how to move a patient on to a stretcher and how quickly to leave the scene, he said.

They also didn't follow training that called for all patients with a penetrating wound to the abdomen to be immediately taken to the nearest trauma hospital, because the depth of the wound or the internal damage involved cannot be assessed at the scene, he said.

"These offenders did not set out to injure Yosif or indeed to treat him in the negligent manner. They justified they honestly thought he was not suffering from a penetrating wound. I concluded that was not objectively warranted under all the circumstances," Arrell said Tuesday.

"Their moral blameworthiness is significant in not following their training, and in the care they provided Yosif. However, they did not cause the injury – that was done by those who shot Yosif."

Court heard Al-Hasnawi was outside a mosque with his brother and a friend when he tried to help an elderly man who was being harassed by two men. The two men confronted the teen and struck him in the head, and Al-Hasnawi was shot after he gave chase, court heard.

Arrell rejected the Crown's arguments that Marchant and Snively's actions were proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be a significant contributing cause of Al-Hasnawi's death, citing evidence that the teen's injury was such that he would have had at most a 50 per cent chance of survival if he had been treated quickly at a trauma centre.

"I accept, however, that whatever limited odds he had were extinguished by the actions of the offenders and the care they provided Yosif, and that grounds their moral blameworthiness in this case," he said.

Failing to provide the necessaries of life carries a maximum sentence of five years.

In his sentencing, Arrell noted the devastating grief felt by Al-Hasnawi's relatives, describing the teen as the "backbone" of his family and a mentor to his younger brother, who was present the night of the shooting.

"I acknowledge the profound sadness and deep loss felt by the family. I also understand that their depression and feeling of loss will be with them indefinitely. It is clear... that Yosif's death has had a far-reaching and devastating effect on this family as a whole," the judge said.

The judge also acknowledged the effect on the Muslim community, pointing to a victim impact statement by the director of the Al Moustafa Islamic Centre in Hamilton, which said the incident left many feeling unsafe and increased their perception of racial inequities between Muslims and others.

Arrell also took into consideration the impact on Marchant and Snively, noting they are in financial difficulty after losing their jobs and will likely struggle with employment in the future due to their conviction.

He added neither had a criminal record before this incident, and while "remorse has not been shown," that is difficult to express when pleading not guilty to a charge.

Marchant and Snively must spend the first six months of their sentence at home except for medical care and other approved appointments, and will have a curfew for the remaining 12 months.

They must also perform 150 hours of community service in the last year of their sentence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press