An Oak Bay father convicted of murdering his two young daughters on Christmas Day in 2017 will be sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court next week.
On Sept. 26, after a six-month trial, a jury found Andrew Berry guilty of the second-degree murders of six-year-old Chloe Elizabeth Berry and four-year-old Aubrey Kate Berry. The two girls were stabbed to death at his Beach Drive apartment.
Berry will be sentenced to life in prison. Justice Miriam Gropper must decide how long Berry must serve before being eligible for parole. Parole eligibility for second-degree murder is 10 to 25 years.
When the jury convicted Berry, Gropper asked jurors whether they wanted to make a recommendation for how much time Berry must serve before he is eligible for parole. Two jurors recommended that Berry serve 10 years without being eligible for parole, while six recommended that he serve 15 years on each charge before being eligible for parole. Four jurors did not make any recommendation.
On Friday, in preparation for what’s expected to be a four-day sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor Patrick Weir gave Gropper a book of victim-impact statements that are expected to be read aloud in court on Tuesday by those affected by the murders.
It includes 14 victim-impact statements from friends and family members and three community-impact statements, including one from Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough asked the judge to edit the victim-impact statements to remove any reference to the length of sentence and the way the trial was conducted.
Weir agreed the length of sentence is not appropriate content for a victim-impact statement, but he asked the judge to allow victims to express how being a witness at the trial affected them. He said the statements are not personal attacks on Berry, nor do they castigate his defence lawyer for the way the trial was conducted. The trial has continued to cause damage and has prevented the healing process from happening, Weir said.
In ruling on whether the victim-impact statements should be edited, Gropper said such statements are valuable because consequences of their actions are brought home palpably to offenders. At the same time, the trial judge is made aware of the damage and the cost to victims and to the community, she said.
As she spoke, Berry sat in the prisoner’s dock with his head down. He was wearing red sweatpants and a red sweatshirt with the logo of the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on his back.
Berry was shackled at the ankles and placed in handcuffs as he was brought in and out of court.
Ultimately, Gropper ruled that comments about being a witness testifying in court are appropriate subjects for a victim-impact statement.
“It does arise from the commission of the offence. It gives the court insight that is valuable in relation to the experience of a particular witness,” said Gropper.
But Gropper said comments about the frustration arising from the court process or trial have a tenuous connection to the damage that a criminal offence has on a victim.
“Trials are, by their nature, slow and tedious and potentially frustrating, but that is not unique to a victim and these comments are to be excised from those statements,” she said.
The judge also allowed statements by the closest friends of the girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, to include descriptions of the impact the offence has had on their personal lives.
“It does describe the offence and how it affected these individuals on a personal level,” she said.