A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge denounced what he described as a culture of violence in the province's correctional institutions as he handed down sentences this week for two inmates involved in a vicious jail attack.
The sentencing hearings were the first in a series expected for the beating and stabbing of inmate Stephen Anderson at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility on Dec. 2, 2019.
The assault involved one group of men entering the cell to beat and stab the victim, two holding the door shut and another group forming several lines to impede officers from responding.
Justice Jamie Campbell also said a meeting of 11 inmates before the attack could be described as a "plan" to harm Anderson.
On Tuesday, Campbell sentenced Omar McIntosh, 34, to 5½ years for his part in the incident, which included holding the door of Anderson's jail cell shut while other inmates beat him.
Colin Ladelpha, 34, who was inside the cell at the time of the assault, was handed a six-year sentence during a hearing on Wednesday.
In both sentencing decisions, Campbell noted the co-ordinated effort and open defiance of correctional officers made the case — which involved charges against 15 inmates — particularly serious.
Violence 'cannot be tolerated'
He described a culture that exists within Nova Scotia jails in which being assaulted by other inmates "is just one of the risks of being there."
"It has been said that prisons are violent places. They should not be. And violence, especially organized violence, cannot be tolerated as part of 'prison culture,'" said Campbell.
"It cannot be permitted to become a place in which some of those who are incarcerated there feel that they are a law unto themselves or that they are at the mercy of those with whom they are incarcerated."
He said denunciation and deterrence were factors in crafting appropriate sentences, "but it should never descend to the point of making an example of a person."
On Nov. 30, Campbell found 12 inmates guilty of aggravated assault and one inmate guilty of obstruction. The 14th inmate, Brian James Marriott, has yet to enter a formal plea but his lawyer has indicated he intends to plead guilty to aggravated assault. The trial of the 15th inmate, Sophon Sek, is on hold due to his illness.
McIntosh to be deported
In the verdict, Campbell noted McIntosh didn't attend the planning meeting, but he was seen on video holding the door and kicking someone.
However, the judge also described his case as a "sad one," as he will be deported to his native Barbados — which he left at the age of seven — after his release from prison. He noted he will leave behind a five-year-old son whom he hasn't seen in over two years.
"While there has been no cultural assessment filed in this case ... his life's circumstances as a racialized person subjected to racism and inequality are part of who he is and must be taken into account in sentencing," the judge said.
Ladelpha showed remorse
On Wednesday, Campbell noted that Ladelpha has a lengthy list of prior convictions, but most involved drug and alcohol offences and he does not have a history of violence.
He also said Ladelpha suffers from mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and showed genuine remorse for his part in the attack.
Nevertheless, Campbell said Ladelpha had direct participation in the beating, and so a sentence of six years was appropriate.
Taking into consideration credit for time served, Ladelpha has three years and 83 days days left in his sentence.
McIntosh has two years and 211 days left in his sentence when incorporating time served.
The other men found guilty are scheduled for sentencing through the first half of 2022.
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