'He is often used by other inmates to do chores for them.'—Justice Freda Steel
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Serial robber has sentenced reduced
Manitoba's highest court has slashed the sentence of a man convicted of a string of threatening gas bar robberies in half.
In a decision released on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal said the six-year sentence given to Troy Gordon Draper last year was harsh and unfit because the judge overseeing his case didn't take into account the degree to which he suffers from mental-health issues.
Draper, now in his mid-20s, pleaded guilty to robbing the same Domo gas bar clerk three times at closing time between Mar. 24 and May 7, 2008.
He also admitted to robbing a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on May. 9 that same year.
In all four robberies, Draper wore a disguise and "postured as if armed." On one occasion, a knife was brandished at his victim. On three occasions, he was with a co-accused, who was not identified on the court's decision.
After his arrest, Draper gave a statement to police admitting to the robberies, saying he committed them because of a crack cocaine addiction.
The sentencing judge handed Draper a six-year prison sentence for the crimes.
However, Justice Freda Steel ruled in a 15-page decision that the "unique constellation" of circumstances surrounding Draper's case wasn't properly accounted for and substituted a three-year and one month long sentence instead.
Draper was given credit for eight months of time served pending a decision in his case, reducing the time he'll have to serve to just over two years.
Steel said the sentencing judge — who was not identified in her decision — overemphasized punishing Draper for the robberies, and failed to adequately address the fact he was a first-time offender suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and addiction-related issues.
FASD refers to a range of disabilities that are seen in people whose mothers drank alcohol while they were pregnant. Problems children face can include learning disabilities, memory loss, short attention spans and difficulty understanding the consequences of actions.
"Only a general reference was made to the mitigating circumstances," Steel wrote. "The sentence is simply unfit for this offender and these offences."
Steel ruled that while Draper's conduct couldn't be excused, the fact he was thieving to feed an addiction means he shouldn't be treated the same as "an offender whose robberies are driven solely by greed."
Steel also cited as positive Draper's ability to remain out of custody on house arrest in an adult foster-placement program and take programming pending trial without breaching his bail conditions.
The brief time Draper spent behind bars after being arrested was "very difficult since he is often used by other inmates to do chores for them," Steel stated. "He experiences high anxiety in his dealings with other inmates and has been transferred repeatedly as a result."
"With offenders such as [Draper], the court should follow the principle of restraint as much as possible," Steel wrote. "When incarceration is required, the term should be as short as possible and tailored to the individual circumstances of the accused."
Restraint requires sentencing judges to consider rehabilitation in determining appropriate jail terms, she stated.
I completely agree with the Court of Appeal's decision to reduce his sentence. This is a move in the right direction. This man is a first time offender and suffers from cocaine addiction issues and fetal alcohol syndrome. His sentence should therefore, be as little as possible, so that his issues and underlying factors contributing to crime can be dealt with effectively, in the community.
After release, this man should attend substance abuse treatment and treatment/counseling for his mental health issues. He should also be assisted in securing employment and job training, and further education, as this reduces the risk of re-offending.