Farah James Robert Yaman will remain behind bars during the pandemic despite having a history of lung disorders, including asthma and a collapsed lung. (Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca)

Judge rejects pandemic as reason to grant bail to immunocompromised prisoner

Esquimalt man told there are more health risks for addicts on the street than there are in jail

A prolific burglar will stay behind bars despite asking a judge for bail due to being immunocompromised during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farah James Robert Yaman, 37, is currently in custody on three charges, two for breaking and entering and one for breaching a release order last year. According to a judgment posted on April 3, the Crown alleges Yaman broke into a home in Esquimalt in October 2019.

When he was released on bail in November, one of the conditions of his release was to reside at a recovery home in the Fraser Valley. Allegedly, and “not seriously disputed” by Yaman, he left the facility and committed another break and enter at a home in Victoria on Dec. 29, 2019. During this break and enter, the homeowners came home just as he was leaving. Yaman fled, but the homeowner and some neighbours were able to chase him down and surround him until police could arrive and arrest him.

READ ALSO: Advocates call safe drug supply a victory but worry about logistics in pandemic

According to the judgment, Yaman has a history of lung disorders, including asthma and a collapsed lung. He also is presently addicted to opiates and suffers from depression, both of which result in prescription medication being provided to him at no cost while in custody.

Yaman’s criminal history began in 1997, and since then he has been convicted on 19 break and enter charges, along with other drug and property offences. He told Provincial Court Judge Ted Gouge that he wasn’t able to access his prescriptions when he was last released on bail because of a delay in restoring his social assistance benefits.

Gouge noted that if Yaman was to be released, there would be a similar delay before he could receive social assistance benefits again.

Since being in custody, Yaman has attended both Alcoholic and Narcotic Anonymous meetings, as well as receiving counselling from the prison psychologist. Yaman proposed that if he were to be released he would go to Mann Ford Recovery Centre in the Fraser Valley, where a bed was available for him.

READ ALSO: Should non-violent offenders be released from prison to avoid COVID-19 spread?

Gouge stated that in light of Yaman’s personal history and criminal record it was “highly likely” that he would resume his former pattern of behavior — “illicit drug use supported by residential break and enters.”

“No one was seriously injured when Mr. Yaman was interrupted by the return of the homeowners, but they might easily have been. Many people react violently when they find an intruder in their home. An opiate addict in need of a ‘fix’ is not an individual to be trifled with,” stated Gouge.

Gouge was presented with a number of media articles showing a concern for prisoners who are exposed to higher risks of contracting the disease due to overcrowding and poor sanitation. Defence also asserted that hand sanitizer was not being dispensed to prisoners in B.C. jails “because some prisoners are inclined to drink it as a substitute for beverage alcohol,” adding that the increased risk of infection is reason to grant bail.

Gouge found that most of the people who would reside at Mann Ford Recovery Centre would not differ “in terms of personal history and lifestyle, from the jail population,” meaning they would have a “similar risk of pre-admission infection.” Gouge was provided with the particulars of the steps being taken by correctional authorities to reduce the risk of infection among prisoners, which he called detailed, meticulous and well thought-out.

“There is no basis on which I could infer that Mr. Yaman’s risk of infection at Mann Ford would be lower than his risk of infection in jail,” stated Gouge. “There are many more health risks for addicts on the street than there are in jail.”



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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