Repeat offender gets house arrest

Usually repeat offenders get increasingly harsh sentences, but that was not the case for a Yukon man who pleaded guilty to auto theft and breaching a probation order.

Usually repeat offenders get increasingly harsh sentences, but that was not the case for a Yukon man who pleaded guilty to auto theft and breaching a probation order.

Richard Linklater, 30, was recently sentenced to four months of house arrest under strict conditions because, for him, the regular system of crime and punishment had simply failed.

A court document from 2008 indicated that Linklater had approximately 50 offences on his criminal record at that time.

Most were property offences, but Linklater reached a turning point in 2001 when he became increasingly involved in violent crime, including armed robbery and assaulting a police officer.

Linklater struggled with a serious addiction to heroine and cocaine and turned to crime to feed his habits, according to the document.

He has served at least two sentences in a federal penitentiary.

The first of those occurred in 2001 on a robbery charge. Then, Linklater asked to serve the sentence in a federal prison in hopes that he would have access to better treatment for his addictions than would be offered in the Yukon, according to reports at the time.

Despite spending most of his adult life in custody, Linklater hasn’t been able to stay out of trouble with the law.

One reason could be that Linklater is very likely afflicted with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

FASD is an umbrella term for birth defects related to the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It can have a detrimental effect on social skills, reasoning and impulse control.

Not being able to learn from one’s mistakes is a documented trait of people with FASD.

In Linklater’s most recent court case, the judge ordered a psychological assessment, which specifically dealt with the impacts of FASD, to help him with his sentencing decision.

The judge would have also had to take into account Linklater’s personal background and aboriginal heritage. Linklater is a member of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow.

A 1996 amendment to the criminal code stated that “all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.”

The Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 decision, R. v. Gladue, offered the first interpretation of that new law.

That decision found that the requirement was “designed to ameliorate the serious problem of overrepresentation of aboriginal people in prisons, and to encourage sentencing judges to have recourse to a restorative approach to sentencing.”

The Gladue decision has changed the way judges approach the sentencing of aboriginal offenders, as they are now required to take colonial histories, in addition to personal histories, into account.

Judge Heino Lilles decided that Linklater should serve his term for the auto theft under house arrest.

Linklater cannot leave his residence without permission of his conditional sentence supervisor, except to go to work, or attend counselling, programming, or meetings with his bail supervisor.

He must abstain from alcohol and drugs, and cannot enter bars, taverns, or off-sale locations.

The Yukon is one of the leading jurisdictions in understanding the impaired abilities of individuals suffering from FASD and taking that into account in the administration of justice.

As of 2007, FASD sufferers charged with minor offences can apply to have their case heard by the Yukon Community Wellness Court, which takes a holistic approach to the sentencing and rehabilitation of individuals struggling with mental health.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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