Skip to content

Two Abbotsford hog-farm protesters win appeal; sentences reduced

Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer of Kelowna now receive conditional sentences
Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer spoke outside the Abbotsford Law Courts prior to sentencing on Oct. 12, 2022. They have now won an appeal of their sentence.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has overturned the jail sentence handed to two animal-rights activists who were involved in a large protest at an Abbotsford hog farm in 2019.

Instead of 30 days each in jail, Amy Soranno and Nick Schafer of Kelowna have now received a 120-day conditional sentence followed by one year of probation.

The three-judge panel agreed that although the sentencing judge did not err in sentencing the two to jail time in October 2022, “incarceration is not necessary to meet the relevant sentencing goals in this case.”

Soranno and Schafer were among those who were part of a large protest at the Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford on April 28, 2019.

They were convicted in July 2022 of one count each of break-and-enter.

The two previously lost an appeal of their convictions and appeared May 31 in front of the B.C. Court of Appeal seeking a reduction in their sentence.

RELATED: Court hears sentencing appeal for 2 Abbotsford hog-farm protesters

Lawyer Peter Sankoff argued at the time that the trial judge erred when he cut off Soranno while she was speaking prior to sentencing.

He said Soranno wanted to address the beliefs and motivations – that animals were being mistreated, based on videos that she had seen – that let her to enter onto the private property without permission.

During the trial, the judge would not allow the jury to see the video footage, which had been obtained from hidden cameras placed on the farm by members of the Meat the Victims group.

The judge at the time said the footage was not relevant to the charges that were before the court.

The B.C. Court of Appeal panel stated in its decision released Monday (June 24) that the farmers were not on trial, and allowing Soranno to speak prior to sentencing about alleged animal abuse would not give the farmers an opportunity to respond.

“I do not accede to the argument that because she was not permitted to speak about specific conditions on the farm encountered by her after she committed the offence, there was a miscarriage of justice,” said lead Justice Susan Griffin.

The pair also argued during their appeal that the sentencing judge was wrong when he stated that a conditional sentence was not available for the offence of break-and-enter.

The provision prohibiting a conditional sentence for break-and-enter was repealed on Nov. 17, 2022. Soranno and Schafer filed their appeal before that – on Oct. 13, 2022.

“It appears to me from his reasons that the judge was very much of the view that a case such as this, involving a large-scale protest that invaded private property and forced the owners to submit to a media presence, in circumstances where the offenders do not regret their actions, requires a penalty to properly deter others and the offender from such conduct in the future,” Justice Griffin wrote.

She stated that there is case precedent “that a deliberate action taken as part of a protest does not necessarily require a sentence of incarceration for multiple days.”

“In my view, incarceration is not necessary to get the relevant sentencing goals in this case.”

Griffin said other factors to be taken into account include that Soranno and Schafer are first-time offenders, caused no physical damage or injury, remained “polite and calm” during the protest, and have “acted respectfully towards the police and the justice system.”

Conditions of their sentence include that they not be within five kilometres of the hog farm, not be on any agricultural property where food or animals are raised, and stay within their residence at all times – except travelling to or from work, or with permission from their supervisor – for the first 30 days of their sentence.

After 30 days, they can leave their homes except between 9 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. daily.

Soranno and Schafer have filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal the B.C. Court of Appeal decision to uphold their convictions.

RELATED: Two Abbotsford hog-farm protesters sentenced to 30 days in jail

Breaking News You Need To Know

Sign up for a free account today and start receiving our exclusive newsletters.

Sign Up with google Sign Up with facebook

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.

Don't have an account? Click here to sign up

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
Read more