Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jan 2002
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2002 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


A territorial judge lamented the lack of services for addicts and
alcoholics Tuesday while he sentenced a troubled young man for
assaulting a visiting musician last September.

Judge Heino Lilles said getting programs in place always seems to be
too expensive or they're just not a political priority.

Both he and defence lawyer Gord Coffin noted the problem of lack of
services after reading probation officer Andrew Hyde's pre-sentence
report for Byron Shane Charlie, 20.

Lilles found Charlie guilty of assault causing bodily harm after a
trial last November.

Yesterday, he sentenced the young man to 12 months in jail and two
years' probation. The four months Charlie has already spent in jail
count as double time, so he'll spend four more months behind bars.

The charges date back to the early-morning hours of Sept. 17 when
Trail, B.C., resident Kevin Matthews was punched in the head.
Matthews, 33, was in town working as a musician at one of the local

After he was punched in the head, Matthews fell and struck his head on
the paved street near the corner of Jarvis Street and Second Avenue.
The B.C. man was in a coma in hospital for five days.

Crown prosecutor Narissa Somji said in court yesterday that Matthews
suffered permanent brain injury and isn't expected to fully recover.
He has problems with memory and forming sentences. Most significantly,
he lost enough physical dexterity that he doesn't expect to ever play
the drums again, she said.

The musician will have to reassess what he's going to do with the rest
of his life, Somji said. Whatever he does choose, his new disability
will limit those options.

"In short, my bread and butter has been taken away from me," Somji
read from Matthews' victim impact statement. "Whatever Mr. Charlie's
problems are, they have been passed to me."

Lilles pointed out during sentencing that Charlie's previous criminal
convictions all relate to alcohol and drugs.

The doctor who wrote the psychiatric report said Charlie had
acknowledged responsibility and remorse - and that he needs help.

Charlie told the doctor he would like to give a piece of his brain to
help Matthews, Somji said.

Charlie shows Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects
characteristics and suffered various kinds of abuse as a child as well
as witnessing his mother's abuse, according to the doctor's report,
which said he's at a moderate to high risk to reoffend if untreated.
He has chronic drug problems and doesn't have many strong personal nor
family ties.

Lilles noted the last point in court yesterday, telling Charlie it was
going to be difficult to turn things around for himself because his
friends were only there to drink or do drugs with him.

"None of those friends are here today," said Lilles. "That tells me

Coffin said the end result - Matthews' brain damage - shouldn't be

Apart from the injuries, the facts of the case are much less serious,
he said. One-punch fights are common and usually don't do much damage,
said Coffin.

Coffin also noted Hyde's comments about the lack of services to help
offenders like Charlie.

"That's of significance," said Coffin.

"It is," agreed Lilles, who said he could think of several people he's
sentenced in the last few years with essentially identical backgrounds
to Charlie's.

"These are ongoing needs," he said. "This is not a unique case." He
said it would be illegal for him to sentence Charlie to more than two
years so he could go to a federal penitentiary with better resources.

Instead, he said he hoped the sheer repetition of sentencing offenders
to take treatment and programming would get those programs installed.
Somji said the range for assault causing bodily harm sentences in
other cases is from six to 18 months in jail. The Crown lawyer asked
Charlie be given a 12- to 18-month jail term as well as 18 months'
probation. She argued Charlie's attack on Matthews was random,
unprovoked and unexpected. Lilles said he wasn't prepared to accept it
was random, as some evidence pointed towards a drug deal gone bad, but
agreed that Matthews didn't know it was coming.

The judge said he agrees there has to be some proportionality between
a crime and its sentence, but he's opposed to picking off custody
times because they seem to match the offence.

Lilles noted that when he looks at sentences for similar cases, he's
looking at the principles behind the sentences more than the amount of
jail time handed out.

A comprehensive treatment approach is the way he's looking to deter
Charlie from committing another offence, said Lilles. The young man
needs to deal with his basic problems with alcohol and violence, he

Lilles agreed with the lawyers that Charlie needs a structured release
back into the community.

Somji argued just releasing him after he's served his jail sentence
would be a risk because most of his friends are likely to be using
alcohol and drugs. She asked that Charlie be required to live at the
Salvation Army's Adult Resource Centre (ARC) for the first four months
of his probation so his transition can be supervised, as well as to
allow for drug and alcohol testing.

Lilles said he couldn't make that order. He did instruct that Charlie
be brought back to court a month before he's released to review how
he's doing and to see what resources are available then.

Lilles also ordered that Charlie live where his probation officer
tells him to for his first three months on probation, then at an
approved location for the rest of the probation period.

The judge ordered Charlie to take counselling, treatment or
programming for substance abuse, grief and violent behaviour.

He'll also be under curfew, isn't allowed to drink or do drugs and
isn't allowed to be in the presence of anyone he knows is intoxicated.
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