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Kelowna  

Lawyer for Robert Riley Saunders says his client attempted suicide three times

Defence suggests no jail

Robert Riley Saunders is remorseful for his actions and should not spend any time behind bars.

That was the recommendation of defence lawyer Brian Fitzpatrick during the second day of his sentencing hearing.

Saunders, decked out in a light blue golf shirt and dark blue slacks appeared to be bored and disinterested during his lawyers summation before Supreme Court Justice Steve Wilson.

Saunders, a former social worker with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, pleaded guilty in September of last year of defrauding the ministry of more than $460,000.

He had been charged with multiple counts of fraud over $5,000, breach of trust, and forging a university degree, which he used to obtain a job at the MCFD back in 1996.

In his summation to the court, Fitzpatrick suggested no jail time for his client. Instead, he suggested a conditional two years house arrest and three years probation.

He suggested the court consider the impact on Saunders' family.

"Both of his children as I understand it essentially disassociated themselves from him," Fitzpatrick said.

"That's a great... I guess I would call it a great loss he's had to deal with separate from the public humiliation."

He also touched on the mental toll the ordeal has had on Saunders, saying on three separate occasions his client attempted to take his own life.

He called Saunders remorseful, saying he has been volunteering his time with numerous agencies in Calgary including the food bank.

During his morning submission, Fitzpatrick cited several cases of fraud where those involved were not handed jail time.

Some involved fraud against banks and other financial institutions, prompting Justice Wilson to suggest the defence was comparing the ministry to a financial institution.

"Here, the victims are youth in care subject to permanent orders," stated Justice Wilson.

"In order to get to that position, not only have they been apprehended... a final order is required. Not only did their parents not look after them, there's nobody else who can.

"It's hard to imagine a more vulnerable group than children in care subject to a permanent order."

During her summation on Thursday, Crown prosecutor Heather Magnin recommended a prison term of six to eight years for Saunders.

Justice Wilson is expected to reserve sentencing to a later date.



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