HALIFAX — An inmate who helped hold a cell door closed during a vicious Halifax jail attack by a large group of prisoners received a sentence of five-and-a-half years in prison on Tuesday from a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge.
The sentencing of Omar McIntosh is the first in a series expected for the Dec. 2, 2019 beating and stabbing of inmate Stephen Anderson at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.
The prosecution had asked for a sentence in the range of five to eight years, with prosecutor Scott Morrison saying the attack stands out as a planned effort to take control of the prison to carry out the violence. He said it has shaken the public's confidence in the safety of the facility.
In his decision, Justice Jamie Campbell said prison "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 also noted that the co-ordinated effort and open defiance of correctional officers made the case — which involved charges against 15 inmates — particularly serious.
On Nov. 30, Campbell found McIntosh and 11 other inmates guilty of aggravated assault, and one inmate guilty of obstruction. The 14th inmate, Brian James Marriott, has yet to enter a formal plea — though his lawyer has indicated he intends to plead guilty to aggravated assault — and the trial of the 15th inmate, Sophon Sek, is on hold due to his illness.
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. The judge also said a meeting of 11 inmates before the attack could be described as a "plan" to harm Anderson.
In the verdict, Campbell had noted McIntosh didn't attend the meeting, but he was seen on video holding the door and kicking someone.
However, the judge on Tuesday also described the 34-year-old man's case as a "sad one" as he will be deported to his native Barbados — which he left at the age of seven — after release from prison. He noted he will leave behind a five-year-old son whom he hasn't seen in over two years.
"He has a Grade 7 education and upon his release will be deported. He is not a person who has spent a considerable part of his adult life in jail," the judge said.
"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."
He said deterrence is a factor in crafting an appropriate sentence, "but it should never descend to the point of making an example of a person."
Campbell calculated that taking into account McIntosh's time already served, the inmate's remaining sentence totals two years and 211 days. That will be sufficient to send McIntosh to a federal prison, a senior prosecutor said in an email.
The second sentencing is scheduled to take place Wednesday and the other men found guilty are scheduled for sentencing through the first half of 2022.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2021.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press