Kamloops man pleads guilty to setting neighbour's make-shift shelter on fire - InfoNews

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Kamloops man pleads guilty to setting neighbour's make-shift shelter on fire

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March 06, 2017 - 2:31 PM

KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops man has pleaded guilty to a charge of arson after a judge ruled his statement to police was admissible as evidence in court.

James Gillis, 43, admitted he set a man's make-shift shelter in the Valleyview area on fire because he believed the man stole a bike from him.

Provincial Court judge Roy Dickey gave his decision on the voir dire hearing for the case today, March 6. He said Gillis was arrested on Feb. 5, 2016 after RCMP responded to a fire in the area. An officer testified in the hearing that he saw Gillis walking away from the fire and stopped him.

Dickey said the officer noticed a strong odour of alcohol coming from Gillis and eventually took him to the detachment for further questioning.

Defence lawyer Michelle Stanford argued Gillis' statement to police should not be ruled admissible because he didn't have a clear mind and was oppressed.

Court heard Gillis suffers from bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions to opiates and alcohol. He has been on methadone since the late 1990s, but hadn't taken it or any of his other prescribed medications for about eight days at the time of the fire.

Dickey told the court Gillis seemed anxious to tell police his side of the story, despite advice from counsel to keep quiet. Dickey said he found Gillis' video and audio recorded statement to police to be voluntary.

"In viewing Mr. Gillis during the statement, there's no evidence of a lack of operating mind," Dickey said.

Dickey also said there was no evidence Gillis was oppressed during his time in custody that night. He said Gillis didn't complain about a lack of food or water.

Shortly after Dickey's decision to allow Gillis' statement to be used as evidence in trial, Stanford entered a guilty plea to one count of arson on her client's behalf.

She told the court her position on sentencing was far apart from Crown prosecutor Monica Fras's position. Stanford will not be seeking a jail sentence but Fras is expected to.

Stanford asked the court to adjourn a sentencing hearing to September because Gillis' employer needs him over the summer. Stanford says this job is important to Gillis because it's the first time he's been able to have stable housing, as opposed to living along the river.

Dickey agreed to allow an otherwise lengthy adjournment and sentencing is expected to take place in September.

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