Kelowna arsonist struggling with mental health issues handed two year sentence | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna arsonist struggling with mental health issues handed two year sentence

November 06, 2019 - 3:00 PM

Insight into the difficulty the courts have in sentencing people who have significant mental health issues was offered this week in a judgment against a 21-year-old man who set fire to his Pandosy Street apartment last winter.

Dylan Jack Hipkin pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire explosion to an apartment building at 1980 Pandosy St. where he lived on Feb. 14 and was sentenced to two years-less-a-day in prison last August. The decision, which was released online this week, indicates that the fire caused nearly $90,000 in damage and put residents in the other 30 units at risk — though nobody was hurt.

For all the damage wrought, Hipkin admitted his crime and his lawyer argued that it was an expression of deeply entrenched mental and emotional struggles, combined with crystal meth use.

“On Feb. 14 he suddenly began to feel angry with himself. He pulled out some matches, poured some rubbing alcohol he normally uses for cleaning his crack pipe, on his chair and set the fire,” wrote Judge Ellen Burdett in a sentencing report.

Hipkin told a forensic psychiatrist that a few days before he set the fire he was using crystal methamphetamine daily and was staying awake day and night. He began to experience auditory hallucinations.

At the time he was receiving help from the home he’d been placed in by Community Living B.C. He was also receiving help from the John Howard Society by way of a worker and the ACT Team which assists mentally ill individuals in the community.

Hipkin was also being treated by a Kelowna psychiatrist, who he was meeting every two weeks on an outpatient basis.

He has been diagnosed with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder and crystal-methamphetamine-induced psychosis, wrote Burdett. 

The symptoms of that psychosis often result in self-harming acts and violence towards others. He also has epilepsy and gender dysphoria.

While Hipkin had accessed community resources, it wasn’t always welcome and he had a long history of assaulting his caregivers, including his parents, who still support him.

Due to his autism disorder, Hipkin had a difficult childhood and was frequently bullied in school and had difficulty managing his behaviour. He changed schools often and was eventually was homeschooled for much of his high school education.

At 17 he began using street drugs and became emotionally volatile and aggressive. He left his mother's home and eventually entered the Foundry Program and moved to South Hills, a psychiatric residence in Kamloops. While a resident there, he bought crystal methamphetamine while out on day passes, and eventually assaulted a nurse.

Consequently, he had to leave that facility.

Drug use continued and when he is withdrawing he becomes short-tempered and ruminates about his past.

“He releases his anger either by hitting others or himself, burning himself with cigarettes or damaging property in a state of rage,” Burdett wrote.

“He told... the Forensic psychiatrist, that setting a blaze to everything around him is just another form of his venting his anger."

Hipkin can function relatively well when he took his medication as prescribed, however, he has a tendency not to do so.

His psychiatrist had prescribed the stimulant Dexedrine for him because of his complaints that his medication caused him to be sluggish and sleepy but in early January he stored up his Dexedrine and then used it all at once and became psychotic.

“As a result, (his psychiatrist) discontinued that drug. Mr. Hipkin was not happy with this action and at that point decided to recommence self-medicating using crystal methamphetamine,” wrote Burdett.

“I find that he had been warned on more than one occasion by (his psychiatrist) that he should not use crystal methamphetamine. In particular, Feb. 4, 10 days before the arson, she had a specific discussion with him about that."

On that day, Hipkin and his psychiatrist discussed his use of crystal methamphetamine and how he had a tendency to become psychotic when he uses it.

The doctor noted that Hipkin acknowledged this, however, he continued to feel that he was likely to keep using meth.

In addition to a regular disregard of prescriptions, Burkett also pointed out that Hipkin had few social bonds other than his parents.

“Apart from specific and general deterrence, and denunciation, my sentence must protect the public,” Burdett wrote.

“I have to assess Mr. Hipkin’s risk of future criminal behaviour as relatively high. The clinical psychiatric notes indicate a longstanding non-compliance with his medication, and his use of street drugs, even when he is being assisted by the John Howard Society, Community Living and the ACT Team.”

Hipkin also has no real plan for reintegration into the community other than an intention to go to the Gospel Mission upon his release.

“The suggestion that he stay at Gospel Mission, a homeless shelter in the epicentre of the drug culture in Kelowna, does not bode well for someone who has the tendency to use crystal methamphetamine,” she wrote.

In addition to his prison sentence, Hipkn will require lengthy supervision to assist him to connect with community services for his rehabilitation as well as for the protection of the public, Burdett wrote, adding three years probation to his sentence.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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