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Burning Man gets 18 months

Mathew Edward Sweet-Grant, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and assault with a weapon after setting his friend on fire at a house party last December, was sentenced to 18 months less time served, Tuesday morning.

Judge Anne Wallace presided over the matter, and began by stating this was a difficult case and one that did not have a clear precedent of previous case law to follow. She also took into consideration a pre-sentence report that outlined a very difficult and tumultuous childhood for Sweet-Grant.

“It’s easy for the community to be horrified and to vilify Mr. Sweet-Grant,” says Wallace, when describing the circumstances surrounding the case and the victim, 18-year-old Tyler Weir.

In her decision, Judge Wallace says she believes there was no intention to burn the skin of Weir, but countered that by labeling the incident as a “very serious offence”, one there could be no argument against. She clarified her remarks, saying it is not acceptable in anyway, shape or form and her decision would be one to “send a message of general detriment” and the sentence must “deter anyone else from doing these offences.”

While she accepted that many of Sweet-Grants statements after the fact were genuine –including his concern for Weir’s injuries – she announced his excuse of a “bad decision” as one she constantly hears in her court.
Wallace felt the incident was unprovoked, which she believed to be an aggravating factor, but said the video footage was “less horrible that I imagined in my mind’s eye.”

Sweet-Grants early guilty plea – which was entered before his bail hearing began – was a mitigating factor, as was his age. Judge Wallace also pointed to his attitude, including his ability to admit responsibility and not pass blame onto his drug addicted mother.

She believed the crowns sentencing submission of between 6-8 years to be completely misguided, saying “I don’t know how crown came up with that,” and also felt the defence submission of between 3-6 months did not reflect the seriousness of the crime and would not send any message.

In addition to Sweet-Grant’s 18-month sentence, he will also face two years of probation and a no contact order with the co-accused Josh McWhirter and the victim Tyler Weir.

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