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Arsonist spared jail time because of brain injury

The man who started the fire at this Sutherland Ave apartment in November 2014 causing $100,000 damage won't face any prison time.
Image Credit: Global Okanagan (with permission)
January 27, 2016 - 9:00 PM


KELOWNA – A young man who tried to commit suicide by setting his own apartment on fire was spared a lengthy jail sentence today because of a brain injury he sustained 12 years ago.

Clinton Robert John Barra pleaded guilty to lighting his apartment on fire and doing $100,000 worth of damage in November 2014. In Kelowna provincial court today, Jan. 27, judge Mayland McKimm decided that because of a brain aneurism Barra had in 2004 that left him physically and cognitively disabled, Barra did not know what he was doing and would not serve any time behind bars.

“This is a most unusual and challenging case,” McKimm said. “Even under slightly less extraordinary circumstances the court would have no hesitation to incarcerate.”

On Nov. 10, 2014 a family member of Barra's phoned police saying Barra had left a voicemail message telling them he loved them. A member of Kelowna RCMP visited the building where Barra lived and, unable to find him at home, spoke with his building manager.

The next morning, a member of the Brain Trust, a rehabilitation facility, phoned police saying Barra had called them and told them to “call the cops”. When police attended his residence for a second time, they found a Kelowna fire truck parked outside and smoke coming out of one of the apartments.

“The constable goes to the back of the building and sees a thin, aboriginal male at the window on the second floor,” Kaay said. “He’s struggling to get his face out of the window… obviously having trouble breathing.”

As smoke billowed around him, onlookers saw the man slump down and shouted to him that firefighters were coming to rescue him.

When firefighters entered the apartment they saw a blowtorch and aerosol cans on the ground and found a sooty, blackened Barra in his bedroom. They tried to pull him from the apartment but Barra resisted.

Firefighters also found several handwritten notes saying not to resuscitate him.

Once outside he was given oxygen but continued saying he didn’t need help. He was apprehended under the Mental Health Act and transported to Kelowna General Hospital where he continued to resist treatment.

He told ambulance attendants he set his clothes on fire and had a number of outbursts at the hospital.

“He says things like this is the poorest he’s ever been, he’s living on beans, he doesn’t care about others,” Kaay says. “(He says) 'I wanted you to find me dead.' He’s quite upset.”

Barra is committed for involuntary admission and eventually charged with arson, which can carry a life sentence.

Both Crown and Barra’s lawyer, Grant Gray, agreed the sentence should be suspended and a period of probation ordered, based on the brain injury that impaired his moral culpability.

McKimm agreed and sentenced him to three years’ probation and counselling.

“If you breach this order the Crown is going to ask that I remove the suspended sentence," McKimm warned. "That will involve a lengthy sentence.... Don’t come back, don’t let us down.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-

News from © iNFOnews, 2016
Tags: KLJAN2016

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