A Vancouver provincial court judge says he will sentence a man for manslaughter in May after the accused pleaded guilty in the punching death of a Downtown Eastside man.
Jonathan James Payne, 38, was charged in January 2021 in connection with the death of Neil Scarisbrick.
The Vancouver Police Department said the 36-year-old Scarisbrick was sucker-punched during an altercation near Columbia and East Hastings streets in the early hours of Sept. 7, 2020 and died from his injuries.
On Feb. 6, Judge John Milne heard details of the offence and sentencing submissions from Crown lawyer Tara Laker and defence lawyer Kevin Westell.
Laker suggested two years in prison and two years’ probation while Westell sought a sentence of two years less a day as part of a conditional sentence.
Laker told the court Scarisbrick had been having an argument with his girlfriend about her perceptions of his infidelities. She had gone to a local pub to meet Payne and his girlfriend.
Payne was a close friend of Scarisbrick’s girlfriend, Laker said. She soon left, however, to find Scarisbrick as she was worried about his emotional state. She met him at Pigeon Park at Hastings and Carrall streets.
Soon, Payne and his girlfriend came by. Scarisbrick’s girlfriend pursued them and Scarisbrick followed, meeting them outside 41 East Hastings.
Laker said an altercation ensued. Scarisbrick turned his back to Payne, at which point Payne punched him twice. He fell and struck his head on the road.
He walked away but soon came back and appeared to kick the fallen man.
Westell disagreed that the apparent kick was done to cause additional harm.
Police, fire and paramedic crews soon arrived but Scarisbrick could not be revived.
“Mr. Scarisbrick was pronounced dead at the incident site,” Laker said, adding a pathologist concluded the cause of death was blunt force trauma.
She said Payne had suggested the punches were self-defence against the martial arts-trained Scarisbrick.
“This perception is not supported by the fact Mr. Scarisbrick had turned away from Mr. Payne,” Laker said.
She called the punches an intentional act. “This was not an accident.”
“Mr. Scarisbrick was not expecting the blow when it came without warning,” Laker said. “Mr. Payne did not offer any assistance but fled the scene.”
As the details were recounted, Scarisbrick’s mother, Yulan Wong, sat sobbing in the court’s front row, comforted by her daughter.
Wong spoke only briefly to the judge.
“My son is known for his kindness ever since he is young,” she said. “If he were here, he would say, ‘All is good,’ with a smile on his face.
“As a mother, I was very happy to have had him,” she said.
Payne, meanwhile, called the incident “the biggest mistake of my life.”
“Please know how horribly remorseful I am for my actions,” he said.
Laker said Scarisbrick had a bright future ahead of him, having excelled at sports and academics in school before earning a UBC philosophy degree. She said he had dealt with some mental health issues as he grew older.
Laker had expressed doubts as to Payne's remorse for the incident but Westell said it was real and that he has taken responsibility for his actions.
“He’s remorseful. He’s regretful,” Westell told Milne.
He said Payne has recognized his flawed thinking.
Westell made it clear to the judge that he was not asking for a suspended sentence for Payne.
“We’re asking for a custodial sentence in the community,” he said.
Payne pleaded guilty May 10 but the sentencing was adjourned due to a delay in production of a pre-sentencing report situation.
Milne said he would deliver his sentence in late March.