How much time in prison should a man get for relatively minor crimes if that man is proven to be unmanageable in the community for four decades of his adult life?
That’s the question BC Supreme Court Justice Thomas Crabtree is set to consider in the case of 58-year-old John Frederick Field who was convicted of three charges in 2018 in Chilliwack: break and enter, attempted robbery, and sexual assault.
The circumstances of the three incidents considered on their own, and considered without the context of Field’s extensive criminal record, would likely earn him less than two years in jail total.
But Crown counsel Henry Waldock is asking for nine years in jail for a break-and-enter that netted just $100, a failed car-jacking, and a sexual assault where the assailant himself did not touch skin and got kicked in the genitals then in the backside by the victim.
“How bad is Mr. Field’s criminal record?” Waldock said in Chilliwack BC Supreme Court on May 21. “He has spent most of his adult life in jail…. He actually spent over 32 years in custody in the last 40 years. Even with remissions, even with bail terms and so on, he spent 32 years in custody. How did that happen? He breaches a lot and he’s been in custody before trial.”
The case at bar for which Waldock was submitting on behalf of the Crown involved Field sneaking on to the ground floor balcony of a Chilliwack man’s apartment. The man was home sleeping in a chair by the door, and Field stole the man’s wallet and keys. He then went down to the parking garage clicking the key fob in attempt, presumably, to steal the vehicle, but the victim had parked on the street that day so he failed.
He got $100 out of the wallet, and that was it.
Then he saw a woman in the parking garage who had just returned home from work sitting in her car looking at her phone. Field first mumbled something at her, the court heard, but he then escalated to banging on her window yelling at her to get out.
She did not. For those two incidents, the career criminal was convicted of break and enter, and attempted robbery.
Then he went to a massage parlour, dumped the empty wallet he stole, and he went looking for a place to do his illegal drugs. He stumbled into a commercial building where he encountered a woman in her office. There was a brief exchange that was at first civil, but then he told the woman he was going to do drugs in front of her.
He snorted crystal meth off a table in front of the terrified woman, then he told her he was going to masturbate, Waldock told the court. He did that then he ordered the woman to take off her clothes. She told him to get out, he then lunged towards her contacting her chest and breaking a necklace. But in the process, she kicked him in the groin. He turned to leave and she then kicked in the backside.
The entire incident left the woman with trauma including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She addressed the court with a victim impact statement on May 21 that explained how she is now afraid of being in enclosed spaces, she has a general fear of men that triggers her trauma. She also has nightmares, anxiety, and physical effects of serious tooth-grinding from the anxiety.
But despite the serious trauma inflicted on the woman, in the criminal code, this particular assault is technically sexual assault but is low on the scale of seriousness. Both the break and enter and the attempted robbery, too, are lower on the scale of seriousness, something Waldock conceded.
Yet still he suggested to Justice Crabtree that three years consecutive for each offence is suitable, given Field’s extensive violent and property crime history, a history that has only seen the 58-year-old spend eight of his 40 adult years since he turned 18 out of prison or jail.
Field’s lawyer did not finish submissions on May 21, but he asked the court for 4.5 years jail at most. Field has already spent about 825 days in pre-trial custody, which, given the usual 1.5:1 credit would give him credit for more than three-and-a-third years. Waldock, however, also asked Justice Crabtree to not give 1.5:1 credit for time served but rather just 1.25:1 given Field’s extensive criminal history.
Defence is scheduled to finish submissions on June 11, and Justice Crabtree will likely set over another date for a sentencing decision.
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