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Court hears details of manhunt

Neil Collins was soaking wet, covered in blood and missing one of his shoes when police arrested him seven days after he cut off his electronic monitoring device and skipped out on a sentencing hearing for drug charges last month in Kelowna.

He was finally sentenced this morning (Thursday), in a joint submission between Crown counsel Monica McParland and Collin’s defence lawyer Corey Armour, to serve six months consecutively to the three-and-a-half year sentence he received earlier this week for the drug charges.

In detailing the escapades that saw Collins evade arrest for seven days, McParland told court that Collins was released from jail on very strict bail conditions Dec. 9, after it was found that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer.

Since Collins was expected to face a multi-year jail sentence, Crown took some unusual steps, thus allowing him to get his affairs in order on grounds of compassion before he was to return to court for sentencing on Dec. 19, 2013.

Those strict bail conditions included an electric monitoring device, house arrest and a $100,000 surety put forward by his father, just to secure the bail.

The court heard that officers were alerted to an alarm signaling Collins had tampered with the device around the same time he was expected in court,  and they immediately descended on his home. He was not there, but his stepdaughter was and officers arrested her for obstruction of justice after they saw her breaking a cell phone and theorized that she was destroying evidence. However, no charges were ever laid.

Considerable time and effort was spent on police resources that day, with roadblocks set up around the Okanagan and a police helicopter dispatched to survey the area.

The 37-year-old was finally arrested on Dec. 26 in Shannon Lake. He was said to be in “grave medical condition” at the time, and officers believed he was suffering from the early signs of hypothermia. The court did not hear how or why Collins was found wet and bleeding, but he was taken to hospital only wearing a hoodie and board shorts.

In his possession, officers found a cell phone containing evidence of his flight from the court system. It included text conversations showing assistance from other people and even plans to flee to Mexico.

McParland referred to these facts put forward in the joint submission as “very aggravating circumstances” and received no argument from Armour.

Having already pleaded guilty to two charges, including failure to appear and breach of recognizance, Judge Vince Hogan agreed with the submission. In doing so, he noted that Collins behaviour was destructive to the justice system since courts may not look favourably towards these compassionate dealings in the future.

The third charge of breaching a bail order was stayed by the Crown, and Collins chose not to say anything on his own behalf.

He was also ordered to pay a $100 fine for each of the three charges, but the amount will not become due until 2017.

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