Prolific Vernon offender had thumb cut off in revenge for drug debt | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Prolific Vernon offender had thumb cut off in revenge for drug debt

Sheldon Veness poses in this undated Facebook photo.
Image Credit: Facebook

A Vernon prolific offender who had his thumb cut off in revenge for unpaid drug debts has been sentenced to jail for three years.

Appearing at the Vernon courthouse by video from custody Aug. 10, Sheldon Donald Lee Veness told Judge Richard Hewson he couldn't remember the break-in he was being convicted for because he was high on drugs at the time.

Veness was appearing in court on 21 separate charges, that included break and enter, driving while prohibited, possession of stolen property, theft, and mischief.

The most serious offence, which garnered him three years jail, was a break and enter Veness committed in Vernon in March.

When police arrested the 29-year-old shortly after the break-in, he was found to have various passports and driving licences that weren't his in a backpack.

He was then charged with having identity documents on him without a lawful excuse.

He committed the break-on while on bail after being arrested for driving while prohibited and breaching an earlier probation order several months earlier.

Following the break-in, Veness remained in custody for a little over a month before being granted bail to live at his mother's house under a curfew.

Defence Lawyer Nickolas Jacob said Veness had done OK at first but slipped back into drug abuse.

Jacob said while on bail someone had cut off his thumb in retaliation for a drug debt.

The court heard how Veness's crimes were done to support his drug habit.

While out on bail, Veness robbed Raven Trader pawn brokers in downtown Vernon.

He also passed out while at a counselling session and broke his curfew because he didn't return home in time.

He was once caught having a fire in the stairwell of a Vernon parking lot, and charged with mischief, and breaking his curfew.

The court heard that Veness had 19 previous property offences, along with half-a-dozen driving offences and had been banned from driving. He'd also been found guilty of breaching court orders on multiple occasions.

In 2016 Veness was one of the first individuals in B.C. to be prosecuted for trafficking fentanyl, which was a relatively new drug at the time.

In the fall of 2018, Veness torched an SUV he'd stolen while evading police.

His record also includes offences for fraud, possessing stolen credit cards, arson, and stealing cars.

READ MORE: Penticton most crime ridden city in Thompson-Okanagan and much of B.C.

The court heard how Veness had an incredibly harsh childhood.

His mother ran away from home at age 12, and supported Veness by working as a sex worker.

At age 10 he was been taken into foster care.

"His time in foster care was horrific," Judge Hewson said.

Veness had been physically and sexually abused by older children while in care. He has little education or work record.

The defence lawyer said Veness had received some treatment, but drugs had overtaken him.

He had, however, recently become a father which was a motivation to become sober.

"The people who were stolen from and whose property was entered would have suffered not only the immediate loss of the crimes committed that day but damaged their ability to feel safe in their own homes or workplaces," Judge Hewson said.

Veness told the court he'd like to apologize to everyone in the community he had caused harm.

"I'm going to take this time in my sentence to learn good behaviour," Veness said.

"I hope you're able to do that... working through addictions when it's compounded by trauma is a steep hill to climb, you can climb it by yourself but that's when people are more likely to find themselves sliding down the hill back to the bottom," Judge Hewson told him. "So if you can find some people along your climb that can help pull you a little bit higher every day, that's what I hope for you."

Judge Hewson said he had "no doubt" that Veness's apology was heartfelt.

Ultimately, Veness pleaded guilty to nine of the charges and was sentenced to three years jail.

READ MORE: Penticton mayor blames climate for his city’s historically high crime rate

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer 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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