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Man jailed for manslaughter likely to reoffend, Victoria court told

Mar 21 2012

A letter written by Matthew Scott Pelkey shows a lot of deep thinking, a significant amount of remorse and insight into his problems with alcohol, a forensic psychiatrist testified Tuesday at Pelkey’s dangerous offender hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.

But the letter, submitted by defence lawyer Jim Heller as Pelkey’s own work, doesn’t seem to fit with tests results that show Pelkey has mild mental retardation, Dr. Robert Miller testified.

“I wondered if Mr. Pelkey was given some help,” said Miller, who seemed surprised by the articulate and thoughtful letter.

In September 2010, Pelkey pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the beating death of Sanjay Ablak outside Streetlink Emergency Shelter on Dec. 8, 2008.

Ablak, a 42-year-old husband and father and popular Safeway manager, had arrived outside the shelter that morning with a prostitute. They had a disagreement over a bag of potato chips. An intoxicated Pelkey, who was lying on the steps outside Streetlink, got up and walked to the middle of Swift Street and punched Ablak in the face, then repeatedly kicked him.

In September 2010, Crown prosecutor Carmen Rogers applied to have Pelkey, then a 27-year-old homeless alcoholic, assessed as a long-term or dangerous offender. Pelkey has four previous convictions for violent offences — two convictions for aggravated assault, one for assault causing bodily harm and one for common assault. He has also been convicted of forcible confinement.

Pelkey grew up on the Tsawout First Nations reserve and graduated from Stelly’s Secondary School in 2001. He had no criminal record until 2004. Most of his offences involve alcohol and women.

The primary objective of the dangerous offender designation is to protect the public from offenders who have committed serious sexual or violent offences, except murder, and continue to pose a threat to society.

Dangerous offenders are often in prison for life, although they are to be reviewed for parole seven years after being incarcerated, and every two years after that. If paroled, they are monitored for the rest of their lives.

Long-term offenders have been convicted of a serious personal injury offence and are considered likely to reoffend. They can be managed through a regular sentence, along with a specific period of federal supervision in the community of up to 10 years after their release.

Miller testified that, based on Pelkey’s history of violence, he is at high risk to reoffend. His significant problem with alcohol increases that risk.

Miller suggested to the court that Pelkey’s cognitive impairment should be properly investigated and, perhaps, treated pharmacologically.

“He should have a CT head scan, a neurological assessment and an EEG [an electroencephalogram procedure that can help diagnose epilepsy and other neurological disorders],” said Miller.

Pelkey’s violence has a large impulsive element to it, said Miller. It is possible he could be treated to reduce his impulsivity.

Miller found Pelkey has anti-social personality disorder. He has no job, no relationships; he has broken the law and abused alcohol.

Although, since 2004, Pelkey has had some insight that his alcohol problem leads him to be violent, it has not changed his behaviour, the psychiatrist said.

“His willingness to participate in a treatment program is a positive thing, but when he’s on the street and provoked he doesn’t see he has a choice.”

Alcohol will always be an issue, but rehabilitation is possible, Miller testified.


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