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Judge clears charges against care home patient after assault on support worker

June 29, 2015 - 9:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - A judge cleared the criminal record of a care home patient who lives with two mental disorders after he spent almost a month in jail for charges pertaining to violent outbursts.

Andrew Sonier, 20, was charged with mischief and assault after he kicked a sign and punched his caseworker. He pleaded guilty in Kamloops Provincial Court today, June 29.

Crown prosecutor Monica Fras said Sonier destroyed a business sign on Seymour Street after a doctor’s visit. The event triggered an RCMP response where the accused spat on a police officer. Following the incident, Fras said Sonier punched his care worker on June 5 after finding out he threw away the morning newspaper.

Sonier is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and autism spectrum disorder, which his lawyer Michelle Stanford said creates the need for constant routine. For Sonier that routine includes reading the paper each day. Stanford said her client's frustrations escalated when the care worker threw the paper in the recycling.

“For him (the newspaper is) important. It may be something small to us, but for him it’s routine,” she said, adding it didn’t create an excuse for the assault.

Stanford said Sonier has been in care for much of his life and there are no placements for him at the Hillside and Southside Centres for mental health patients. She said Sonier currently lives in a care home with two staff members and became frustrated with restrictions on his lifestyle, such as length of access to family and one hour of TV. Stanford argued the structure which she called 'severe' created a tension which could have triggered the assault.

She noted the accused spent roughly a month in jail in a separate unit from general population for “his protection."

Both Stanford and Fras agreed on a suspended sentence with a one-year probation as a joint submission to Judge Chris Cleaveley who disagreed with both lawyers.

“This situation calls out for a conditional discharge,” he said. “There’s no reason why Mr. Sonier should have a criminal record arising from these matters."

Cleaveley addressed Sonier’s need for 24-hour care for his mental health and gave him a one-year probation period.

“We want you to get home and live by the rules of the house,” he said. “The lesson I want you to take is to be more respectful of people and their property."

In previous months, Heather Harris - a patient at Hillside was arrested after allegedly assaulting a nurse. Judge Len Marchand cleared her of charges after determining she was unfit for trial.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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