Noel Harder sentenced after 2 years in solitary confinement: ‘I’ve never felt safe’

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WATCH: Former Saskatoon police informant Noel Harder was sentenced Thursday, but with credit for time served, he is a free man – Oct 8, 2020

Free from solitary confinement, Noel Harder can leave a place where he says his life is in danger.

Harder, a former police informant, spoke with Global News outside of Saskatoon provincial court. On Thursday, Judge Miguel Martinez sentenced him to three years and 20 days for five weapons charges. With credit for time served, he was free to go.

After Thursday, Harder said he will leave Saskatchewan and possibly the country.

Read more: Former Saskatchewan police informant, Noel Harder, to represent himself at trial

“I’ve never felt safe from the time that we were actually taken from here and put in the Witness Protection Program,” Harder said in the interview.

Harder and his family went into emergency protection the day before Saskatoon police carried out a series of raids on Jan. 14, 2015. Harder’s information helped officers recover $8 million worth of drugs and hundreds of guns, contributing to nearly 20 criminal convictions.

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His expulsion from witness protection has since become the subject of a lawsuit between Harder and Canada’s attorney general.

At some point before Sept. 25, 2018, Harder returned to Saskatoon. He told Global News he had business to do surrounding real estate and some vehicles.

Court heard the former informant was spotted holding a handgun inside a Range Rover SUV in the city’s Sutherland area. A witness called 911 after seeing Harder pull back the slide on the 9-mm Glock before a bullet fell out.

Read more: Feds explain why Project Forseti informant ousted from witness protection

Harder maintains he was armed for personal protection.

“I believed that I was innocent in the sense that there was a lawful justification or excuse to have them,” he told Global News.

Officers responded within minutes and searched the SUV. They found multiple weapons inside the vehicle and laid 26 charges.

The majority of the counts were stayed at the end of Harder’s sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty to possessing the following for a dangerous purpose: the 9-mm handgun, an airsoft pistol, bear spray and a form of pepper spray. He also admitted to possessing a gun while prohibited and doing so while in a vehicle.

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He also received a lifetime ban on possessing guns.

Read more: Former police informant Noel Harder denied bail on drug and weapons charges

Police cruisers were stationed around provincial court following Harder’s sentencing. Marked and unmarked vehicles circled the block.

Though Harder said the weapons were for his protection, he acknowledged that he now understands his actions were against the law.

Representing himself in court, he agreed to the sentence and facts of the case put forward by Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa.

“We don’t want people walking around with weapons,” Kujawa said outside court. “We’re not allowed to arm ourselves to keep ourselves safe.”

A significant mitigating factor was that Harder had spent his entire incarceration — 743 days — in solitary confinement. Court heard it was out of necessity to keep the former agent safe, though the judge acknowledged the potential harmful consequences.

Read more: Federal government gives up fight against 15 day hard cap on solitary confinement

“Essentially, two years in a box by yourself … I don’t know what it does to a person psychologically,” Martinez said.

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Harder said he spent anywhere between 23 and 24 hours per day confined to his “box.” He said the experience left him with anxiety and a “mental fog.”

Kujawa said she also noticed a change in Harder’s demeanor over the years.

“I have no doubt his time in solitary confinement has had an irrevocable impact on him,” Kujawa said. “I am sorry that he had to spend his time in that fashion.”

Asked by Global News why he fought his charges for years only to plead guilty, Harder replied “I fought it not just because I thought I could win, but because I thought it was justice.”

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