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Pelkey's desire to change not enough, Crown argues

Mar 29 2012

Matthew Scott Pelkey should be declared a dangerous offender and imprisoned for an indefinite period to protect public safety, the Crown argued Wednesday during final submissions at Pelkey's sentencing hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.

However, defence lawyer Jim Heller asked Justice Malcolm Macaulay to consider Pelkey's aboriginal heritage and the oppressive conditions he grew up with and find him less morally culpable.

Heller, who will continue his submissions today, asked Macaulay to declare Pelkey a longterm offender and impose a fixed sentence, followed by federal supervision in the community for 10 years.

Crown prosecutor Carmen Rogers outlined Pelkey's criminal history for the court. In September 2010, he was convicted of 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 employee, 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.

Pelkey has also been convicted of possession of a dangerous weapon, assault causing bodily harm, assault, unlawful confinement and two convictions for aggravated assault.

His criminal history demonstrates a pattern of repetitive and persistent aggressive behaviour and meets the dangerous offender criteria, said Rogers. In all cases, Rogers said, Pelkey was intoxicated, he believed a woman was being treated unjustly, his attacks were impulsive and considerable harm was done to his victims.

In most cases, his victims suffered face and head injuries and were kicked when they fell.

This aggressive behaviour will continue and Pelkey will continue to pose a threat to society, Rogers predicted.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Miller found Pelkey at high risk to reoffend because of his significant problem with alcohol. He could not say whether treatment would help Pelkey, Rogers noted.

Although Pelkey wants and hopes his behaviour will change, he has breached his court-ordered conditions 19 times, mostly by consuming alcohol. The longest Pelkey has been out of custody since May 2004 is three months and eight days, said Rogers

"Mr. Pelkey is someone who wants to change, but only after he's done something he feels terrible about and he's sitting in jail and doesn't want to be there any more," said Rogers.

His motivation is important, but it is not sufficient to control him in the community, she said. Even if treatment is successful, Pelkey's release could be contemplated only under strict supervision including weekly drug and alcohol testing.

If Macaulay chooses to impose a fixed sentence, it should be in the range of eight to 10 years, she said.

DANGEROUS AND LONG-TERM OFFENDERS

- Dangerous offenders are often in prison for life, although they are reviewed for parole seven years after being incarcerated, and every two years after that.

If paroled, dangerous offenders are monitored for the rest of their lives. If they continue to present an unacceptable risk for society, they stay in prison for life.

- Long-term offenders have been convicted of a serious personal injury offence and are considered likely to reoffend.

Long-term offenders 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.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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