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

Suspect denied bail, despite using pandemic as defence to be released from jail

An Abbotsford judge has ruled that COVID-19 is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for inmates using it as an argument to be released from prison.

Judge Gregory Brown made the statement April 17 in denying the release on bail of a man who was charged with fleeing from police in Abbotsford in March.

David Sean Anderson, 36, appeared via teleconference in Abbotsford provincial court on April 8, at which time his lawyer asked that Anderson no longer be detained in prison due to the pandemic.

He has been in custody since March 27. On that day, police allegedly noticed Anderson parked in a remote area of Abbotsford near the border, but when they approached his vehicle, he sped away.

According to court documents, Anderson allegedly reached speeds of up to 150 km/h in an 80 km/h zone and continued to drive away even after hitting a spike belt set up by police.

Anderson allegedly abandoned the vehicle and ran away, but was arrested shortly afterwards. He was subsequently charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle, driving while disqualified, fleeing from police and breaching his probation.

“Defence counsel submits that although this is a case where ordinarily a detention order could be considered, I ought to look at the risks associated with COVID-19 in prisons and release Mr. Anderson with an innovative release plan,” Brown stated in his written ruling.

The release plan presented by Anderson’s lawyer included a $2,000 cash release order and house arrest in a “type of gated community,” Brown wrote.

RELATED: Mission inmate dies from apparent complications of COVID-19

But Brown said Anderson has a criminal record that is “extensive and unenviable,” including five convictions for dangerous driving and eight convictions for driving while disqualified or driving without the owner’s consent.

Brown said Anderson also has several convictions for property offences and breaching his court-ordered conditions.

Anderson was last sentenced in February 2020 for several offences, including driving while disqualified, possession of stolen property, fraud, two break-ins and theft of a vehicle.

He was given a sentence of time served and 18 months’ probation.

The judge said COVID-19 is a “valid factor” when considering whether an individual should remain in prison.

He cited the outbreak at Mission Institution, which, at the time of his ruling, had 54 infected inmates and eight staff members who had tested positive.

RELATED: Federal handling of COVID-19 outbreak at Mission Institution criticized by local MPs, advocates

“Inmates are housed in closed quarters, making them a vulnerable, state-mandated group of people,” Brown wrote.

But he said that other segments of society – such as health-care workers and elderly residents of care homes – are especially at risk, and the “vulnerability of prisoners must be placed in context.”

Brown concluded that Anderson does not have any health concerns that would put him at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and that his release plan “cannot properly mitigate the risk to the public.”

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

Anderson remains in custody and is next due back in court on May 11.


 

@VikkiHopes
vhopes@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police continue to investigate a break-and-enter in this Sidney jewelry store in the 2500-block of Beacon Avenue. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Thieves hit Sidney jewelry store

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP says incident is not part of a larger trend

A rare Short-eared owl was found dead in a Saanich backyard on Oct. 26 and will be sent for a necropsy to find out if it had ingested rat poison. (Photo courtesy Kimberly Adamec)
Rare owl found dead in Saanich yard to be sent for necropsy

Short-eared owl ‘vulnerable’ in B.C., owl advocate says

This house in the 600-block of Linden Avenue in Fairfield has a Día de Muertos theme for 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Haunted Oak Bay

Residents spookify houses

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #91, said plans for a new building will ensure long-term sustainability. (Black Press Media file photo)
Plans for new Legion in Langford include low-cost housing for seniors

Project could be before council in early 2021

The 1946 building in Sooke known as the Tin Grotto, located at 2076 Otter Point Rd, is set to be demolished. Council awarded the demolition contract to Maple Ridge-based T&T Demolition. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke approves demolition for dilapidated downtown building

‘Tin Grotto’ to be reduced to rubble in weeks

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers, staff by parents must stop: Chilliwack soccer club

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Ridge Meadows RCMP (Black Press)
Maple Ridge X-ray tech convicted of sexual assault dating back 30 years

Allen James Brooks is expected to be sentenced in January 2021

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Most Read