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No jail time for former Saanich pharmacist who cut brake lines of ex-wife's new partner

Sep 27 2012

A former Saanich pharmacist will serve a 12-month sentence in the community followed by three years of probation after breaking into the condominium of his ex-wife's new partner and cutting the brake lines on his motorcycle.

Ali Laal, 53, the former owner of Pharmaesthetics Inc. at 3960 Quadra St. and the People's Pharmacy in Esquimalt, won't serve any jail time but will have a number of conditions imposed, including a curfew.

He will also serve a consecutive six-month conditional sentence for possessing a loaded firearm and a concurrent 30-day sentence for breach of recognizance by having a firearm.

"The primary goal in this sentencing is the deterrence of Mr. Laal and others and the denunciation of his erratic, illegal behaviour," said Victoria provincial court Judge Adrian Brooks on Wednesday at Laal's sentencing hearing.

Laal was charged July 5, 2009, with assaulting his wife and his daughter. After his arrest, Laal was ordered by the court not to possess any firearms.

"It was clear Mr. Laal was aware of the significance of the terms of his recognizance," noted Brooks.

But less than two weeks later, an inspector with the B.C. College of Pharmacists searched Laal's Quadra Street pharmacy and found a restricted firearm underneath a cushion on the couch.

"The firearm was loaded and the breach was flagrant," Brooks said.

Laal received a conditional discharge on the assault charges in August 2010. One month later, he was arrested and charged with breaking into the garage of the condominium where his ex-wife's partner lived. The tires on his motorcycle were slashed and the brake lines cut, and Laal was charged with mischief.

In April 2012, after a trial in Victoria provincial court, Brooks convicted Laal of possession of the loaded firearm and breach of recognizance. Laal pleaded guilty in May to the charges of break and enter and mischief.

Brooks noted that Laal had separated from his wife many months before the incident in the parking garage. He found the aggravating circumstances to be the significant degree of thought and planning that went into the offence.

Although Laal said he had just learned of his ex-wife's new romance and it caused him stress, his reaction to the stress was to observe her partner, learn about his motorcycle and where it was parked, and then find a way inside the premises, Brooks said. Laal also brought some kind of tool or object to damage the bike.

Laal left the motorcycle in a way that made it clear it was damaged. Although they weren't injured, his ex-wife and her partner were still affected by the act, Brooks said.

The judge found the mitigating circumstances were Laal's guilty plea, his expression of remorse and apology, his good performance on bail and the fact he had no criminal record before 2009.

"I also find a significantly mitigating factor that this range of behaviour has resulted in his own financial devastation," Brooks said. "He has suffered a complete collapse of his ability to act as a pharmacist."

Court heard that Laal lives in Chilliwack and works at a Surrey pharmacy. The College of Pharmacists has him under disciplinary proceedings, said his defence lawyer, Tim Russell. Laal is not allowed to manage or own a pharmacy.

Brooks said he was troubled by the extent to which Laal minimized his behaviour. He considered that a factor against granting a conditional sentence order.

"That minimization goes so far as to outright dishonesty," Brooks said, noting that Laal denied cutting the brake lines. "That was untrue. That was dishonest."

However, as Laal is considered to be at low risk to violently reoffend, Brooks allowed him to serve his sentence in the community.

During what is effectively an 18-month conditional sentence, Laal must obey a 10 p.m. to 4: 30 a.m. curfew. He may only contact his ex-wife by telephone with her express consent, and he is not allowed to contact her partner. He must pay $300 restitution for the damage to his motorcycle.

Laal is not permitted to drink alcohol and must not possess any weapons. He must attend and complete counselling as directed by his probation officer

He is also not allowed to be on Vancouver Island without the permission of his probation officer and without his ex-wife and her partner being notified. Laal must not go within one mile of their homes.

Brooks lifted the curfew and no-alcohol provisions during Laal's three-year probation.

Laal is prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years and prohibited for life from possessing restricted weapons. ldickson@timescolonist.com

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