A Kelowna man with a long criminal record dating back decades was handed an additional five-month jail sentence Thursday afternoon for a handful of crimes he committed in August.
The Kelowna RCMP took the extraordinary step in August of warning the public of Justin Collins' bail release, after he was arrested on Aug. 21 for an incident at Kelowna motel. At the time, Kelowna's then-mayor Colin Basran responded to Collins' release, saying "something has to change."
On the afternoon of Aug. 21, Collins was refused a room at Canada's Best Value Inn in Kelowna and was asked to leave, but he refused. He then pushed an employee of the motel, barged his way into the back office, and attempted to take some mail, before another employee tackled him to the ground.
Police arrived and arrested Collins, and he was charged with assault, theft under $5,000 and mischief under $5,000.
Earlier that month, on Aug. 5, Collins had been sentenced by Judge Lisa Wyatt to time served for assaulting a police officer and theft of a vehicle, and he'd been released from custody on an 18-month probation order.
But despite that sentencing just 14 days prior, Collins was released on bail the day after his arrest at the motel, leading to the RCMP issuing their warning.
“The Kelowna RCMP continue to make arrests and bring Justin Collins to court, however without adequate consequences or compulsory pathways to mental health and substance use programs, our public is at risk,” Supt. Kara Triance said in a statement on Aug. 23.
“Justin Collins is a repeat offender who has no regard for the safety and well being of others.”
But the very next day, a report was issued to the Crown that Collins hadn't reported to his probation supervisor on Aug. 8 as he was required, and a new warrant was issued for his arrest for breaching his probation condition. It's not clear why it took 16 days for the Crown to be notified that Collins had breached his probation condition earlier in the month.
As a result of the new warrant, police arrested Collins again on Aug. 25. Collins resisted arrest, and he was also found with a several pieces of stolen mail from four different individuals. He's remained in custody since then.
On Thursday, Collins pleaded guilty to breaching his probation condition on Aug. 8, assault and attempting to steal mail on Aug. 21, and resisting arrest and possessing the stolen mail on Aug. 25.
Collins has spent 59 days in jail at Okanagan Correctional Centre prior to Thursday's guilty plea, the vast majority he says he spent in solitary confinement. With enhanced credit for presentence time served, he has 89 days of credit, and Collins sought a total sentence of time served for the three incidents.
His lawyer Melissa Lowe noted Collins' addiction issues and struggles with homelessness, which she said reduced his moral blameworthiness in his offending. She also sought a probation term that wouldn't include requirements to report to a probation officer or seek counselling, as that would “set him up for failure."
But Judge Wyatt, who sentenced Collins to time served just two and a half months ago, was not convinced.
“How do I protect the community?” Judge Wyatt asked Lowe. “He gets out and immediately breached my (Aug. 5) order. He doesn't report and within two and a half weeks, he's reoffending.
“How do I protect the public with a time-served sentence and no new probation order?”
Collins, who's on disability assistance for a back injury and suffers from methamphetamine and heroin addiction, addressed Judge Wyatt prior to his sentencing, beginning with: “I don't know what you want to hear.”
Ultimately, Judge Wyatt went along with the sentence sought by Crown prosecutor Mallory Treddenick – 151 additional days of jail, followed by another probation term.
“There is no question that Mr. Collins has significant barriers to overcome ... we know very well in these courts how hard it is for someone to overcome addiction and poverty,” Judge Wyatt said.
“But this alone cannot excuse Mr. Collins' behaviour which include his blatant refusal to follow his probation order and his continuing pattern of property crime, obstruction of police and assaulting people.
“His rehabilitation is still a factor to consider in sentencing him, as required by the Criminal Code, but at this stage and with his criminal record, I find that deterrence, denunciation and protection of the public take precedence.”
While Collins sentence won't expire for another 151 days, offenders in Canada are eligible to apply for parole after serving one-third of their sentence, and most are eligible for automatic statutory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence.