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Kamloops Judge says more jail won't help repeat offender

The Facebook profile of James Rocky Whitford which has come up in court proceedings. Whitford is actually Eric Charlie
Image Credit: Facebook.com
January 08, 2016 - 5:25 PM

KAMLOOPS - A homeless man who used a different name to escape his troubles and criminal history got another chance at rehabilitation today after his lawyer and a judge agreed jail wasn’t going to help him.

In Kamloops Supreme Court today, Jan. 8, Eric Bradley Charlie's lawyer argued Charlie's continuous life of crime would not be curbed with a jail sentence.

Kenneth Walker said a report on Charlie’s background described a life of neglect, abuse, ongoing addictions to hard drugs and homelessness that led to criminal activity. He called on the court to order a better solution for rehabilitation instead of another stint in provincial jail where Charlie's been since March, 2015.

“(The report on Charlie is) extensive. It’s specific. It identifies the trouble that Aboriginal people have had in Canada since colonization. Mr. Charlie has particularly suffered 17 different placements in foster families between the age of seven and 13. He tried to commit suicide at age 13. Quite frankly, I’m surprised the record isn’t worse,” Walker said.

“This is not the protection of the public from a violent offender. What he needs to do is rehabilitate. We have to do better. We have to be more innovative. We have to think about different ways to do this."

In September, 2015 Charlie was convicted of obstructing justice after he gave an RCMP officer conducting street checks a fake name - James Rocky Whitford. When he was arrested for an offence, the alias was tacked onto his criminal file which then wound its way through the court system. Eventually Charlie was sentenced under Whitford and was serving that sentence until the Crown realized the error.

Walker outlined a plan for Charlie if he were to receive a suspended sentence with probation, which would include relocating to Burns Lake to live with family and work on staying clean, getting a job and rebuilding a relationship with his band. Crown prosecutor Frank Caputo on the other hand, requested a one-year jail sentence to be followed with a probationary period and said Charlie's behaviour and actions "struck at the heart of what we do here in court."

Justice Mark McEwan agreed with Walker’s proposal over Caputo's.

“Here’s a guy who played the system. He shouldn’t have done it. To me, that’s almost not relevant to this case. The accused is almost a non-participant given his circumstances,” McEwan said. "The court just pushes these through week in and week out. But if you read his history, he’s a guy who never had a break. Life circumstances, it’s one bad thing happening after another."

McEwan asked both lawyers for direction on what would happen if Charlie received a probationary sentence. He stressed particular concerns, citing if Charlie was granted release he might turn to crime in order to sustain himself or relapse on drugs.

“If all this does is consign him to days with no money and no job - how is he going to find the strength to be rehabilitated? He’s been homeless at times. If you have nothing, what else do you do but steal?” McEwan said.

“I wish you could order someone to give him a bus ticket (to Burns Lake),” Walker replied. “Could you order me to do it? If you directed me to do it, I’d do it. Then we’ll send the bill to Legal Aid and we’ll see."

Caputo stressed the need for further time in custody as denunciation and to deter the public from committing similar offences.

"If we stand up today and say look at what this report says and simply turn the offender loose and say 'time served' - what has the report done?” Caputo asked.

"I’m more focussed on seeing what rehabilitative sentence (is available),” McEwan replied.

Upon his release from custody, Charlie will be required to report to a probation officer and abstain from drugs and alcohol.

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, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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