Arson sentencing back in court

The judge, Crown, defence and the offender all expressed concerns after another delay in sentencing for an arson that took place at Cascade Gardens in October.

“What I wanna know is, I’ve been locked up for four months and you guys haven’t even completed a report?” said Sydney Leer, 18, who pleaded guilty to arson damaging property in Penticton Provincial Court on Nov. 22, 2016. “I lit a house on fire, it doesn’t take four months to write a report.”

Leer appeared in Penticton Provincial Court Feb. 6 via video from the Lower Mainland.

The residents of four townhouse units were displaced from their homes after a three-alarm fire at Cascade Gardens on Oct. 13.

Once again the court was informed of another delay through a letter from forensic psychiatric services, indicating the report would not be completed until Feb. 27.

Judge Greg Koturbash called the delay a dissapointment, and noted it was particularly distressing that the young offender, who had recently turned 18 around the time of the offence, has remained in custody this long prior to sentencing.

“This report is absolutely necessary. Ms. Leer has been in custody waiting for the conclusion of this report for a long time. However, the mental health of this young person is a significant piece of the puzzle,” said Crown counsel Kurt Froehlich. “It affects sentencing range, it affects a number of the principles of sentencing and without it I don’t think it would be fair to ask the court to pass sentence on Ms. Leer.”

Froehlich said the delay, the second of this nature, was once again due to a resource issue with forensic psychiatric services.

“It’s not something the Crown has control over,” Froehlich said.

Defence counsel for Leer, Norman Yates, also expressed dissapointment in the delay.

“I don’t mean to grandstand, but in my 28 years of appearing before this court I’ve never seen anything, in my view, that was quite as abject as this one,” Yates said. “This is a young lady, as I said, who finds herself in a very difficult situation and to say that it’s a matter of lack of resources in a province as brilliant as ours is totally unacceptable.”

Yates noted the information available in a psychological assessment is crucial for his client.

Counsels will confer with the judicial case manager on Feb. 8 to set a future date for sentencing.

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