CORNER BROOK — A Corner Brook man with a history of mental illness was given a suspended sentence in provincial court on Wednesday.
Stacey Payne had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of assault and failure to comply with a probation order in relation to a Nov. 10, 2011 incident.
Payne had been “panhandling” outside of an entrance to the Goodhouse Shopping Mall on West Street when he was approached by the owner of the mall.
The owner asked Payne to move away from the entrance. An argument ensued and Payne slapped the mall owner in the head.
At the time, Payne was subject to a probation order that had been issued on Feb. 17, 2011 requiring him to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
In his written decision, Judge Wayne Gorman said Payne suffers from Schizoid-Affective Disorder and that he has been hospitalized in the past because of mental health issues.
Despite the Crown seeking jail time for Payne, Gorman concluded that the case was an appropriate one for the imposition of a suspended sentence. He said restraint in the imposition of sentence is statutorily mandated by the Criminal Code. In addition, he said in this case restraint is required because of Payne’s mental illness and the need to stress rehabilitation.
“I appreciate that one of Mr. Payne’s offences involved an assault and I appreciate the difficulties and frustration caused to store owners by panhandlers. However, incarcerating Mr. Payne will not promote his rehabilitation. There are reasonable alternatives,” wrote Gorman.
A pre-sentence report completed in the case indicated that Payne has been employed by West Lane Recycling since January and the program supervisor characterized his interactions in, overall, positive terms.
The report said at present there are “more positive structures” amid his social circumstances and that he is more co-operative with his psychiatrist’s case plan.
In his decision, Gorman acknowledged that Payne has been making progress in his life. He characterized the assault as minor in nature and said there has been no repetition of such behaviour.
In addition to a suspended sentence on both charges, Gorman placed Payne on probation for a period of 12 months.
Conditions of the probation included that Payne report to a probation officer in person as required and comply with all directions received, attend all counselling or treatment sessions arranged by his probation officer, and refrain from entering into or standing outside of any entrance to the Goodhouse Shopping Mall.
He is also prohibited from possessing any firearm, crossbow, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, or all such things, for a period of one year and must comply with a DNA order.