Warning: This story talks about suicide and may be distressing to some readers.
A Vancouver provincial court judge has sentenced a man to less than six months' time served and two years' probation for multiple assaults, mischief and public masturbation.
Judge Eugene Jamieson heard Fateh Ahmad Al Karam, 24, came to Canada in November 2019 from Aleppo, Syria, via Lebanon after an abusive early life.
The judge heard Al Karam has been plagued with trauma due to his time in Syria and Canada. Defence lawyer Sonja Luck said her client has battled an addiction to crystal methamphetamine, a situation Jamieson said contributed to his crimes.
Prosecutor Louise Gauld said the chain of events began on March 1, 2021, when Al Karam attempted to carjack a vehicle in Vancouver's West End. She said the driver managed to get Al Karam out of his vehicle but observed him trying to get into other moving cars before police arrived.
On March 30, 2021, Al Karam assaulted a nurse and psychiatrist at Vancouver General Hospital. He had been taken to the hospital earlier that day after attempting to drown himself in English Bay while in a methamphetamine-inducted psychosis, the court heard.
On May 25, Al Karam assaulted a front desk worker at a shelter at Fifth Avenue and Yukon Street by backhanding her in the mouth and cheek.
Police were called, and when a sergeant arrived, Al Karam doused him in hot coffee. The officer pepper sprayed him and arrested him for two counts of assault.
On July 20, 2021, staff at the Immigrant Services Society of BC on Victoria Drive called police for help as Al Karam was screaming outside after being denied entry. After damaging a door, he began jumping on a staff member's bicycle.
On May 20, 2021, police were called to an incident of a man masturbating in the West End's Nelson Park. The court heard Al Karam remained violent as he resisted arrest.
Gauld said a psychiatric report noted Al Karam has little insight into his offences.
The Crown wanted his time in jail credited at 11 months.
However, the defence lawyer said such a credit could imperil him with immigration officials who could seek to have him removed from Canada. She suggested 175 days, just less than six months. She also asked for 12 months' probation.
"His offences are directly related to his drug use," she said.
Jamieson said it was clear Al Karam's mental health, drug use and criminal behaviour were intertwined.
Luck said Al Karam is connected with mental health services, including the West End mental health team, which can have him certified if he violates any conditions.
She feared imposing reporting conditions on him could set him up for a breach of a court order.
The judge said Al Karam should be encouraged to get treatment for drug use.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is available.
- In an emergency, call 9-1-1
- In a crisis, call 1-800-784-2433
- In need of support, call 310-6789 (no area code needed)
- You can find a full list of resources on the B.C. government's website.