No jail time for Vernon man who suffered burns to 85 per cent of his body during pot oil explosion | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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No jail time for Vernon man who suffered burns to 85 per cent of his body during pot oil explosion

Vernon Law Courts


VERNON - A Vernon man who caused an explosion while attempting to extract marijuana oil in his bathroom says he’s sorry for what happened, and has even offered to speak to students about the risks of handling explosive substances.

James Iverson, 23, pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing bodily harm and arson by negligence in relation to the Aug. 14, 2015 fire at an apartment complex on Okanagan Avenue.

The explosion left Iverson with third degree burns on 85 per cent of his body, requiring 187 skin grafts and intensive care, his lawyer Nick Jacob said today, June 13, during a sentence hearing in Vernon Provincial Court.

On the day of the offence, Iverson and a friend were attempting to extract oil from marijuana shake using butane, Crown counsel Juan O’Quinn said.

“… Through some misfortune, whether it was a switch flicked on in the bathroom, a spark ignited the butane being accumulated in this marijuana extraction process and it caused an explosion,” O’Quinn said.

The ensuing fire prompted a response from the Vernon Fire Department, B.C. Ambulance, and police. 

Iverson’s friend sustained burns to 25 per cent of his body. No one else was injured. Roughly $175,000 of damage was done to the leased unit.

O’Quinn asked Judge Edmond de Walle to consider an 18- to 24-month jail term for the arson charge, and eight to 12 months for criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The maximum penalty for criminal negligence causing harm is 10 years, and five years for arson by negligence.

Iverson expressed remorse for his actions in a pre-sentence report, and also submitted both a written and oral apology in court.

“I would like to say it was never my intention to cause an explosion or to harm anybody in any way, shape or form,” Iverson said today. “I’d like to express my deepest regret that there were other people that were affected due to my negligent actions.”

Iverson will continue to suffer from his injuries for the rest of his life, Jacob said, pointing to severe scarring on his client’s head, ears and arms.

“He’s going to have these physical deformities for the rest of its life,” Jacob said. “…He’s having trouble attracting the attention of females where he didn’t necessarily have that trouble in the past.”

Since the explosion, Iverson visited the Vernon Fire Department and offered his services to go to schools and talk to young people about the risks of fire and explosive substances, Jacob said. The fire department has not taken him up on the offer.

Jacob argued for a suspended sentence (no jail time) with a three year probation and strict conditions.

Judge de Walle, citing ‘exceptional circumstances’ was convinced that a jail sentence was not required. Making note of Iverson’s remorse, his young age, lack of any serious criminal record, and his guilty pleas — which spared court time and Crown resources — de Walle sentenced him to three years on probation (including a six months on a curfew) plus 50 hours of community work.

Iverson declined to be interviewed about his ordeal after his sentencing. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 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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