Road trip to B.C. Interior ends with two years in jail for Victoria man - InfoNews

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Road trip to B.C. Interior ends with two years in jail for Victoria man

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
January 20, 2018 - 1:30 PM

PENTICTON - A Victoria man will spend two years in jail for an armed robbery at a marijuana dispensary in the Similkameen.

Christopher Neil Spinney, 31, pleaded guilty to an armed robbery that occurred in Cawston while he was on a road trip with an acquaintance and the man's girlfriend in the Interior last summer.

During Spinney's sentencing hearing in Penticton court yesterday, Jan. 19, Crown prosecutor Ann Lerchs said police received a 911 call around noon on July 31 with a report a man had robbed the Amber Light Compassion Society’s medical marijuana dispensary in Cawston with a corkscrew. An assault occurred before two men were seen driving away in a silver station wagon.

Witnesses told police one of the men, later identified as Spinney, was spotted initially trying to steal the recyclables while his accomplice entered the store and told members at the club he belonged to the society and wished to purchase marijuana.

He was refused and left the store, after which Spinney entered and demanded the cash box. As the box was handed over, it fell on the floor, spilling the contents.

Spinney then got into a fight with a woman in the dispensary while a second woman tried to hit him with a fire extinguisher. Spinney struck the second woman in the arm and back of the head with a corkscrew.

The men fled the scene, with police spotting the vehicle on Highway 3 heading towards Osoyoos a short time later. Police determined the vehicle’s plates were stolen from Victoria, and a spike belt was set up after attempts to stop the car failed.

The two continued to try to escape police even after blowing both front tires on the spike belt, but eventually ditched the car, continuing their escape on foot.

Police officers eventually caught up with him and it took three officers to place the struggling Spinney under arrest.

Lerchs noted Spinney had no previous records for violent behaviour, but did have previous property offences. She asked Judge Gregory Koturbash for a jail sentence of between 30 and 36 months.

Defence lawyer Tim Russell said his client had been the rock of his family when he wasn’t on drugs, noting all his offences were the result of drug-influenced behaviour when taking methamphetamine or heroin.

He said his client prided himself on his non-violent character and was ashamed and remorseful about the events that took place in Cawston.

Russell said his client had become involved with a woman he’d known for some time, who was also an addict, in the weeks prior to the Cawston incident.

She overdosed and required Spinney’s intervention with Naloxone to revive her, after which the two had a serious discussion about seeking treatment and getting clean. However, the woman overdosed again the following day and died.

Russell said his client’s life began a downward spiral at that point. He stopped working, began using daily, and met the other man involved in the Cawston robbery in downtown Victoria.

Spinney originally accompanied the other man and his girlfriend on a trip to Vancouver. That turned into the road trip into the interior that brought the two men to the Cawston compassion club.

Russell noted his client’s “completely unplanned, unsophisticated" robbery, adding Spinney was extremely high on meth when he began rummaging in the club’s recyclables before walking into the back room in a search for money.

He said his client was now leading an exemplary life in prison, where he was upgrading himself whenever he could, in addition to mediating disputes in his prison ward.

Russell said the violent nature of his client’s behaviour was a wake up call for him to get his life back on track.

He asked the judge to consider recommending transfer to the Nanaimo Correctional Centre, requesting a sentence of 18 months to two years for Spinney.

Spinney told the court he was "deeply sorry" for his crimes, offering to write a letter to the victims.

Judge Koturbash said he was mindful of the loss of Spinney’s girlfriend as the impetus for his downward spiral, adding his extreme intoxication on meth helped to explain the impulsivity of Spinney’s crime.

Koturbash also noted Spinney’s attempts at improvement, his remorse, and the unsophisticated nature of the robbery in passing a sentence of two years in jail, followed by two years of probation.

With credit for enhanced time already served, Spinney has 474 days remaining on his sentence.

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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