THUNDER BAY - A defence lawyer for a Thunder Bay man convicted of a 2001 killing said the justice system failed his client who was back in court Wednesday for sentencing on recent charges.
Neil Thompson, 38, pleaded guilty to break and enter with intent and failure to comply with a probation order in connection to an incident that occurred on Sept. 16 in Thunder Bay. Court heard Thompson, along with two others broke into a residence on Secord Street where more than $14,000 worth of property was stolen at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Thompson and his two co-accused were arrested a short distance away from the residence where police determined he was on two separate probation orders at the time. Justice Patrice Band sentenced Thompson to six months in custody for the break and enter and 30 days concurrent for the failure to comply charge.
The sentence was a joint submission proposed by defence lawyer Gilbert Labine and crown counsel Tiffany Boisvert. Before Band sentenced Thompson, he heard a summary of his criminal history including significant Gladue factors from his lawyer.
The most significant criminal record entry for Thompson was a conviction of manslaughter approximately 20 years ago.
“Mr. Thompson was 18 or 19 years of age with no record, an aboriginal kid attending high school in Thunder Bay,” Labine said.
Thompson had attended a party in the city where three individuals accosted him and his girlfriend.
“He got up and got a knife and stabbed the assailant once in the arm,” Labine said, adding the stab wound severed an artery which resulted in death.
Thompson was first charged with murder which was then reduced to manslaughter. At the time, Thompson's defence lawyer pleaded with the judge to send Thompson to a provincial institution due to his susceptibility to being recruited by gangs in a federal penitentiary. He ended up serving his sentence at a federal prison.
"Sure enough, he was recruited," Labine said.
Thompson served several years in custody for the offence which negatively affected him by the time he was released from prison, Labine said.
“He was a completely different person,” the lawyer said, adding his client was recruited into gangs while in custody and also developed a drug addiction.
“When we speak about aboriginal offenders and trying to rehabilitate them and trying to give them appropriate sentences to give them a chance. It would be my respectful submission that the justice system really failed Neil Thompson,” he said.
“When he came back he was involved in criminal activity as a result of the native gang involvement, however, he did manage to distance himself,” Labine said.
Labine also told the court his client suffered an extensive brain injury approximately three years ago which still heavily impacts him.
With respect to the Sept. 16 incident, his lawyer said Thompson’s co-accused was the one targeting the vacant residence and taking items to feed drug habits days prior to their arrest. Thompson was invited after, Labine said.
In sentencing Thompson, Band highlighted the several challenges he faces including his brain injury, his drug dependency and his struggles with homelessness.
“He is a gentleman of aboriginal descent and the court is well aware of some of the ravages that have been the result of colonialism in this country and is part of what informs the joint submission,” he said.
Thompson was credited for the days he has spent in pre-sentence custody at an enhanced rate. He will have 84 days going forward. He will also be placed on an 18-month probation order following his custodial sentence.
He is also required to pay back one-third of a restitution order totalling more than $14,000 for the incident. The amount he is responsible for is approximately $4,800.
Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source