A Corner Brook lawyer says frustration with getting services from Western Health is what caused her client to take the actions he did in August, 2018.
Courtney Mills told the provincial court in Corner Brook Monday, Aug 12, that Glen Freake’s emails to staff at Western Memorial Regional Hospital threatening to harm them and to damage the hospital was the result of prolonged issues he had to get access to services.
She said hospital staff were not properly trained or equipped to assist Freake, who is deaf, and Western Health has since changed its policy on how to deal with deaf clients.
She said Freake, 41, never had any intention of carrying out the threats and that they stemmed from mental health issues.
“I think we need to be careful of criminalizing people that have severe mental health issues,” she told the court at Freake’s sentencing hearing.
He pleaded guilty on July 31 to the charge of uttering threats, to threatening to damage or destroy property at the hospital and to two breaches of a court order.
Mills acknowledged the offences were serious but added “the circumstances that arose that created this situation, there is some responsibility on behalf of Western Health that had they been able to provide proper services it may not have escalated to this point.”
Mills suggested that an appropriate sentence would be probation alone, and asked Judge Wayne Gorman to consider a conditional discharge.
Crown attorney Kate Ashton suggested a period of jail time that could be served conditionally was necessary, citing the need for denunciation.
“The people threatened were workers at the hospital who were just trying to do their job and they were threatened by Mr. Freake,” she said.
In her victim impact statement one of the recipients of Freak’s emails said she was greatly affected by the incident, is afraid at work and at home and the threats caused her to change routines. She said she is constantly on edge.
Ashton said while Freake was frustrated about his treatment, his actions were not the correct way to deal with that.
She suggested a 30-day conditional sentence on the uttering threats against staff charge and a 30-day sentence on the uttering threats to damage the hospital charge, to run concurrently, and 15 days on the breaches.
She also asked for a one-year probation order with the requirements that Freake have no contact with a number of hospital workers and only attend the hospital for medical emergencies, that he avail of counselling, abstain from alcohol and that he be subject to a five-year firearms prohibition.
Prior to the lawyers making their submissions, Gorman pointed out that the facts read into court during the earlier appearance did not reference threats against the hospital.
This was corrected with Ashton quoting from one of the emails in which Freake said: “I might as well blow the hospital up since I know how to make explosive devices.”
Gorman will deliver his decision on sentencing on Thursday, Aug. 15.