Monday January 26, 2015

Seven offences net five months behind bars

A Merritt man with an arm's-length list of recent driving, theft and obstruction offences will spend another four months in jail, a provincial court judge decided Thursday.

Dale Wagner, 54, pleaded guilty to the seven charges and was sentenced to 153 days in custody based on a joint submission from Crown and defence counsels. He has been in custody for the past month.

"In fact, a lengthier sentence would have been appropriate had you not pleaded guilty," said Judge Sheri Donegan told Wagner.

In February, a Highland Valley Copper security officer followed a truck on suspicion that it was connected with a theft. On March 29, a Merritt RCMP officer learned the vehicle belonged to Wagner and that he was violating a court-ordered curfew at the time.

On March 12, a Nicola Lake resident came upon a pickup truck loaded with semi-trailer truck tires taken from her property. The tires were left there after a rollover accident on Highway 5A.

The woman spoke to the pickup driver, but he sped away towards Kamloops. She noted the license number. It was later confirmed by the trailer owner that no one had been given authority to remove the tires.

That same month, Wagner was pulled over by police over a headlight infraction while driving on Barriere Town Road. Wagner gave a false name. He was barely within his curfew hours and could not have returned to Merritt in time without violating the release condition. He was caught in violation again in McLure some days later.

When police visited Wagner's residence for a curfew check on March 28, they couldn't find him initially. When they did spot him standing in the darkness, he refused to co-operate and tried to escape. Two officers had to struggle with him and use pepperspray to cuff him. At a subsequent bail hearing, his curfew restrictions were tightened and bail of $5,000 was imposed.

On June 21, Chilliwack RCMP pulled over Wagner's vehicle and found that he was driving without a license and in violation of his curfew.

Citing the string of offences, Crown recommended a global sentence of 153 days minus the month Wagner has already served.

Defence counsel Don Campbell said his client hasn't had a criminal offence since 1998. Wagner operates an orchard, tree service and apiary in Merritt with his parents and is worried about how they will manage without him, Campbell noted.

The judge said she could do no less than the proposed sentence in order to meet the principals of civic and general deterrence.

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