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COVID-19 risks affect sentencing of man who stole from police car

The offender's actions for the November 2019 incident were described by the judge as a “spree that occurred over a period of 24 hours fuelled by a substance abuse addiction.”

WAWA, ONT. - A man with previous convictions of property crimes who pleaded guilty to 10 charges including stealing items from a police cruiser and theft of a motor vehicle was sentenced to time served, in part due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19

The Sault Ste. Marie judge who sentenced Jordan Alan McConnell, 28, who pleaded guilty to a total of 10 charges pointed out among other things, the elevated health risks the current pandemic poses to individuals that are currently incarcerated.

“The offender is being sentenced in the middle of a pandemic for property crimes,” Justice Romuald Kwolek said in his decision posted online Wednesday, April 8. 

“Although the inmates who truly prove a risk to society should remain incarcerated, others who do not pose such a risk to society should be released if such disposition is possible and appropriate,” Kwolek said.

Crown counsel’s position on sentencing was a 15-month custodial sentence minus time McConnell had served in pre-sentence custody.

Defence counsel had requested a period of time served followed by a lengthy probation period and a fine under the Highway Traffic Act would be an appropriate sentence.

McConnell’s pre-sentence custody was just short of seven months, the decision says.

The offender has been in custody since his arrest in November 2019. Court heard Ontario Provincial Police officers with the Wawa detachment received a call from an auto dealership regarding an individual who had broken into a patrol cruiser at the dealership and stolen handcuffs and a DNA kit.

Staff at another local dealership had also put in a call to police about a suspicious person who appeared to be entering vehicles.

Officers detained a suspect and found him in possession of various sets of keys, a number of identification pieces that weren’t his, loose cash and pills. Further investigation revealed the accused had stolen a yellow F-150 truck.

Inside the vehicle, police found the missing DNA kit, various break and enter tools, bullets improperly stored, stolen children’s toys, five licence plates and a passport that was not his. The accused was also found with small amounts of methamphetamine and chlorazepam. 

The accused was also found to be driving with a suspended driver’s licence. 

The accused has a criminal record dating back to 2013. Some of his convictions include various property offences, uttering threats, failing to attend court, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and possession of property obtained by crime.

His actions for the November 2019 incident were described by the judge as a “spree that occurred over a period of 24 hours fuelled by a substance abuse addiction.”

Crown counsel argued the offender had previously been sentenced to two years of incarceration for similar offences in 2016 and that the sentence currently being imposed should be elevated. 

Due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, judges across the country are having to consider the implications of COVID-19 on an individual in custody, the judge says in his decision.

“Given the accused lack of any history of violent offences and his entering of guilty pleas and expressions of remorse, together with his plan for dealing with his substance abuse issues, the court finds that a global sentence of about eight months would have be appropriate,” Kwolek said. “As the offender has already served the equivalent of a sentence of about seven months, there is nothing to be gained and much to lose by continuing his incarceration.”

In the end, the judge concluded a seven to eight-month incarceration period was appropriate for McConnell, to be followed by a three-year probation period.

A three-year driving prohibition was also imposed and he is also required to pay a $1,000 fine for operating a conveyance when his licence was suspended. 

He also was handed a separate six-month licence suspension.

For the full court decision, go here.

Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Karen Edwards reports on court and crime under the Local Journalism initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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