Kelowna man, 21, receives conditional sentence for torturing, killing hamsters

The judge said despite the horrific acts, Leighton Labute, 21, is a low risk to reoffend, as he’s severely autistic and has a very low IQ. Global News

A Kelowna man who gained notoriety in 2020 for sharing videos of himself torturing and killing hamsters will serve an 18-month conditional sentence, followed by three years of probation.

Among a long list of other restrictions, Leighton Labute, 21, won’t be allowed to own a pet or go into stores where animals or weapons are sold.

He won’t serve any time behind bars, though his freedoms will be curtailed during the course of his sentence.

Labute was arrested in May 2020 after videos posted to a Kelowna Reddit page were widely circulated around the community.

That prompted an RCMP investigation which uncovered a diary detailing his macabre acts, as well as a number of videos and photos where he acted out everything — from the sexual assault of dolls and clay female figures subjected to violence.

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While a number of charges followed, he pleaded guilty to maiming and injuring an animal in June. The other charges were stayed.

On Wednesday, provincial court judge Paul Dohm told the court that despite the horrific acts committed, he is a low risk to re-offend.

Labute, he said, is severely autistic and has a very low IQ.

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He is an only child, but his parents are fully engaged in his care. He lives with them, and spends almost all his time at the family home, Dohm said. He does not have any friends or any real employment history.

“It is clear that he was bullied throughout the school years and I have no doubt have contributed to some of the issues he struggled with today,” Dohm said.

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Doctors who assessed him concluded he’s a low risk for recidivism for both interpersonal violence and violence against animals.

According to one doctor, Labute presents no known history of interpersonal violence, anti-social attitudes or behaviours.

“His offending behaviour appears to have resulted primarily from a grossly misguided attempt to gain social attention if not infamy online,” Dohm said.

“It appears that a long-standing interest in the macabre, also present, also contributed significantly to Labute’s behaviour.”

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Labute spoke very briefly during the sentencing, only acknowledging that he understood the conditions that he would face while also agreeing to stay out of trouble.

His lawyer, Julian Van Der Walle, offered a statement to the media on behalf of the Labute family.

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“The Labute family are dedicated and hard-working members of the community who have done their bests to raise their son, Leighton, who, unfortunately, was born with major intellectual deficits and suffers from severe autism spectrum disorder,” the statement reads.

“The opinion of experts involved with this case is that his intellectual deficits and autism played a critical role in his behavior that brought him before the court on these charges. This was a desperate cry for attention by a young man with the mental age of a 12-year-old who had been bullied all of his life because of his autism.”

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The family went on to say they love him and are working to ensure he stays away from areas of the internet that negatively influenced him.

“We ask that the community refrain from name-calling or making threads on the internet towards Leighton or his family and let them move on as best they can with life in peace.”


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