Advertisement

COVID-19 not a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card,’ B.C. judge rules

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.
The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The COVID-19 crisis is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for inmates to be released from prison, a B.C. judge has ruled.

In an April 17 decision, Judge Gregory Brown denied the release on bail of a man charged with fleeing from police in Abbotsford last month.

Click to play video 'B.C. lawyers worry about growing backlog with courts virtually shut down' B.C. lawyers worry about growing backlog with courts virtually shut down
B.C. lawyers worry about growing backlog with courts virtually shut down

David Sean Anderson, 36, faces multiple charges after allegedly travelling at speeds of up to 200 km/h, running over a spike belt set up by police to stop him, and driving away on flat tires.

Story continues below advertisement

During a teleconference hearing on April 8, defence asked the court to consider “an innovative release plan” for Anderson due to the novel coronavirus pandemic that would include a cash deposit and 24-hour house arrest at his girlfriend’s home in Langley.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Brown said Anderson has an “extensive and unenviable” criminal record that includes multiple convictions for dangerous operation of a vehicle and operating a vehicle while disqualified.

Click to play video 'COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada' COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada
COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada

In February, Anderson was given a sentence of time served and 18 months’ probation for operating a vehicle while disqualified, possession of stolen property over $5,000, fraud over $5,000, breach of undertaking, two break-and-enters and theft of a motor vehicle.

READ MORE: Oliver, B.C. man released early from Okanagan jail due to COVID-19 outbreak

Brown said COVD-19 is a “valid factor” to consider when deciding whether someone should remain in prison, but rejected the proposed release plan for Anderson as it “cannot properly mitigate the risk to the public.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'Oliver, B.C. man released early from Okanagan jail due to COVID-19 outbreak' Oliver, B.C. man released early from Okanagan jail due to COVID-19 outbreak
Oliver, B.C. man released early from Okanagan jail due to COVID-19 outbreak

“If a spike belt cannot immediately slow Mr. Anderson down, I do not think a release order will do so now,” he wrote.

“The coronavirus is not a ‘get-out-of-jail free-card.’ It is a serious factor to consider and may tip the scales in some cases. But if an accused’s risk is truly unmanageable, it remains unmanageable notwithstanding the greater risks posed by the coronavirus inside an institution.”

Prisons across the country have been grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sixty-five inmates at B.C.’s Mission Institution have tested positive for the coronavirus and one inmate has died of COVID-19, making it the worst outbreak in a federal prison.