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Penticton offender's alcoholism treatment delays sentencing

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
December 02, 2017 - 12:30 PM

PENTICTON - A Penticton man was given a final opportunity to prove he was serious about changing his ways prior to sentencing in court yesterday, Dec. 1.

Judge Michelle Daneliuk postponed sentencing Benjamin Joe, 39, after he entered guilty pleas on several counts, including theft of a motor vehicle, being unlawfully in a dwelling house and theft under $5,000. The postponement is to allow Joe immediate entry into a treatment facility in Surrey to treat his alcohol addiction.

Daneliuk told Joe this is “literally your last chance,” noting he would be under tight restrictions while attending the facility and would come back before the court for sentencing in the New Year.

Crown prosecutor Andrew Vanderluys told court Joe was caught in possession of $499.94 worth of stolen speakers and headphones shoplifting at London Drugs in Penticton on June 8.

On June 30, police were called to the Cherry Lane mall parking lot after a complaint of someone “casing” vehicles, and in one case, saying the man had entered a vehicle. Police arrested Joe, who was carrying brass knuckles, a Taser and a small quantity of heroin.

On July 16, Princeton RCMP were notified of thefts taking place in cabins located on Coalmont Road near Tulameen. One resident reported a mountain bike, laptop and visa documents stolen while another resident reported a wallet and pocketknife taken from an unlocked vehicle.

The following day, police were notified of a vehicle stolen from a Tulameen home.

The owner had initiated a search on his own for the vehicle, locating it in a driveway in town. He pulled in behind it, blocking it, only to be confronted by Joe, who made threats prior to jumping in the stolen vehicle and trying to get away by smashing into the vehicle parked behind him.

Police arrived and arrested Joe, who officers discovered had been staying unauthorized in a nearby cabin. A search of the cabin revealed items stolen the previous day, and a quantity of empty beer cans and gin bottles.

Vanderluys is seeking a sentence totalling 16 months for Joe’s crimes. He noted Joe’s criminal past which includes 34 convictions for theft and property crimes and pointed to his aggressive behaviour when caught with the stolen vehicle when making the request.

Joe has been in custody since his arrest on July 19.

Defence lawyer William Thorne told court his client suffers from alcoholism, but had undergone treatment in his 20s and that had proved effective for several years. He said Joe had an immediate opportunity to be placed in a treatment centre and was highly motivated to address his alcoholism.

He asked for a sentence of time served and a four-month conditional sentence that would allow his client to be released in order to take advantage of the opportunity for treatment.

“When he drinks, he gets into trouble. He wants to get back to looking after his kids. Today is the date he has a chance,” Thorne said, noting inmates seeking treatment are usually wait listed upon their release, a situation that often proves to be their downfall.

Judge Daneliuk said a recent change in the justice system meant more funding was being provided for Gladue reports, noting his Indigenous heritage. The reports are prepared prior to sentencing First Nations offenders.

She said the overall importance of a Gladue report for Joe shouldn’t be overlooked.

Daneliuk released Joe on bail, under conditions he report directly to the treatment centre for treatment. Joe is expected to return to court in the New Year for sentencing.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 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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