PENTICTON - What began as a typical sentencing on multiple drug and theft charges is turning into a lengthy and involved case in Penticton Provincial Court after a judge heard hours of evidence about rising crime in the South Okanagan.
The Crown put a crime statistician on the stand today, May 2, to give direct evidence on whether crime is, indeed, rising — a question raised by Judge Gregory Koturbash, who was being asked to sentence Jeffrey Donald James Pelly in early February for multiple thefts and drug charges.
At the time, the judge said he was struggling with whether he should consider rising crime rates in the area as part of his sentencing decision, which he heard through local news reports. He made a request to Crown for more definitive information.
Pelly’s sentencing came at time when property crimes appeared to be increasing rapidly in Penticton and Pelly made headlines because he was arrested for reoffending within minutes of his release on bail on Dec. 29, 2015.
Judge Koturbash heard lengthy testimony today from Penticton RCMP crime statistician Rachel Linklater who provided Crown Prosecutor Vern Frolick with a comprehensive breakdown of crime statistics over a six-year period from 2010 to February, 2016, for both Penticton and Oliver.
Crime is on the rise significantly so in many crime categories over the six-year period and in 2015 in particular, she said.
Linklater also said she believed statistics showed property crime increased in Penticton last year when the crime reduction team was pulled from its regular duties to investigate two homicides that occurred in the city last year.
That prompted Frolick to again request a sentence of 18 months for Pelly followed by a period of probation, as “a significant step up from Pelly’s previous sentence, based on his record and the speed at which he re-offended after being released from custody.”
Defence lawyer James Pennnington disagreed, calling his 39-year-old client to the stand, where he described the circumstances of his crimes. Pelly said his life fell apart two years ago, after a relationship with his drug addicted girlfriend went astray. Pelly said his addiction stemmed from the relationship.
Prior to that, Pelly worked as a skilled logger, who once had a family and residence in Oliver. He said his involvement with meth was a $100 a day habit he sometimes paid for through crime, figuring around $500 a month came from ill-gotten proceeds. He also worked gainfully in vineyards and other casual jobs at the time.
Pelly, who has been incarcerated for all but a few hours since December 24, 2015, passed four courses while at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
While in Kamloops, he had been placed in protective custody since Feb. 7 because of threats and violence, including a lost tooth.
He said he’d like to go to an intensive addiction treatment program upon his release.
Pennington disagreed with the conclusions on crime statistics and said a better indicator of crime would be a breakdown of the statistics into a percentage of the population.
Judge Koturbash reserved his judgement until Tuesday, May 3, citing the need for further review on the statistical information put before him.
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