A man who went on a two-week bank robbing spree in the Okanagan and Lower Mainland was sentenced to three years and 10 months in jail on Tuesday in Penticton Supreme Court.
Justice William Ehrcke said victim impact statements from two of the bank tellers Christopher Swain robbed in 2009 outlined the deep impression it left with them. Ehrcke said Swain relied on threats of violence in the notes to get the money.
“Two of the tellers he robbed dramatically revealed the severe impact these offences had compromising their work and general well-being,” said Ehrcke.
The court heard Swain was on day parole from a 2008 robbery, in order to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, but failed to return on curfew. Instead, Swain went to Vancouver Island where he started a romantic relationship, and in 2009 the couple went on a road trip to the Interior.
Swain first robbed the Vancouver City Credit Union in Mission on March 31, 2009, pushing a note in front of a teller demanding $5,000 in $50 bills and informing that he had a gun. When he received the money he moved to the next wicket where Swain robbed a customer of $2,300.
On April 6, 2009 Swain presented a note at the Bank of Nova Scotia on the 400 block of Main Street in Penticton, fleeing the scene with $1,400. Later that same day, he went into the CIBC on Harvey Avenue in Kelowna presenting a note ordering $4,000 and no die packs with ‘I don’t want to kill you but I will,’ also written on the piece of paper. The teller gave Swain $1,800, and when he discovered the die pack he threw it back at her and took the money. Swain returned to Penticton on April 11 to the second Bank of Nova Scotia location in the city, once again presenting a note demanding $5,000 but fleeing with $3,900.
RCMP eventually tracked Swain and his girlfriend down at a hotel room in Maple Ridge, where they found hoodies fitting the description of what the bank robber was wearing, a note and an unloaded “Chinese handgun and magazine” in the vehicle the pair were travelling in.
Crown counsel Sarah Firestone and defence lawyer Jordan Watt put in a joint submission on sentencing, calling for six years on four robbery charges and knowingly possessing a firearm without a licence. A stay of proceedings was given to one robbery charge out of Mission and two firearms related charges. Justice Ehrcke sentenced Swain to six years, giving him credit for time in jail while awaiting trial, leaving Swain with three years and 10 months remaining to serve behind bars. The 33-year-old will also be under a lifetime firearms ban.
Ehrcke said Swain has 25 prior convictions and has spent much of his adult life incarcerated, with much of it having to do with his addiction to heroin. Swain chose not to say anything for himself, rather his lawyer told the court that he is someone “who accepts responsibility” by pleading guilty before the matters went to trial by jury as Swain originally planned. The defence lawyer also told the court Swain’s release plan is to move to Alberta and find work in the oil patch.
The woman Swain was travelling with during the bank robberies was not charged.