Whitehorse man who escaped courtroom avoids dangerous offender status

Yukon territorial court has given a man with more than 50 criminal convictions one last chance to make good on his promise to put an end to his violent criminal behaviour and deal with his personal issues.

Yukon territorial court has given a man with more than 50 criminal convictions one last chance to make good on his promise to put an end to his violent criminal behaviour and deal with his personal issues.

Richard Linklater was sentenced Feb. 6 to two years in prison for robbery and was designated a long-term offender, meaning he will be on probation for 10 years.

He had pleaded guilty to a slew of charges that mostly took place in September 2015, including robbery, failure to comply with a court order, fraud under $5,000, operating a vehicle while disqualified, and escaping lawful custody.

The robbery was the most violent of the charges. Linklater stole a purse from an elder who was smoking outside the Westmark hotel, dragging her to the ground in the process. During a bail hearing in late September 2015, Linklater bolted out of the courtroom. An RCMP officer pursued him, yelling at him to stop, but Linklater managed to escape, before being caught a month later.

With the latest robbery conviction, Linklater now has nine convictions for violent offences. In 2001 he choked a bookstore clerk during a robbery. In 2004 he tried to rob a grocery store with a hypodermic needle, before robbing a liquor store with a knife.

At the Whitehorse Correctional Centre several years later he set his cell on fire and assaulted a corrections officer. In 2008, acting as a drug enforcer, he gave a “significant” beating to a client owing money, Crown prosecutor Noel Sinclair said. In 2012, he stole a vehicle, then proceeded to threaten the owner, who had contacted the police, with a machete.

Sinclair initially sought to have Linklater locked up indefinitely, referring to Linklater as a “career criminal.”

Sinclair was going for a dangerous offender designation — the most restrictive sentence a Canadian court can impose — but a report from a forensic psychiatrist found it was still possible for Linklater to rehabilitate himself in the community.

Both the prosecutor and Linklater’s lawyer presented the court with a joint submission for a long-term offender designation which allows for a long-term supervision order, and up to 10 years of probation.

Long-term supervision orders are for repeat offenders who can still be managed in the community with appropriate conditions.

The terms of the supervision order are stricter than probation. Linklater can be forced to undergo drug screening and the consequences for breaching conditions are more serious than in the case of probation violations.

For Linklater, a team comprised of the RCMP, an Aboriginal community liaison worker, two parole officers, an elder and a representative from a B.C. halfway house will work on a plan for his release.

The National Parole Board will decide whether to approve the plan.

It will most likely include some time in a halfway house in B.C., Sinclair said, and at least 25 counselling sessions.

After that, he will be back in the community but under conditions.

Linklater told the court he had gained a better understanding of his mental health issues and cognitive disability, and the fact he needed to address them. A report filed in court concluded Linklater exhibited signs of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

But Sinclair had no qualms telling Linklater what would happen to him were he to re-offend.

“If Mr. Linklater reoffends violently in the future the Crown (prosecutor) is going to have no choice but seek to have him jailed indeterminately,” he said.

It all comes down to Linklater’s substance abuse and whether he can stay off drugs.

“If he starts using them (again), things are going to go bad for him in a whole bunch of ways,” Sinclair said.

But Linklater also criticized the justice system during the sentencing hearing, asserting he wasn’t provided with appropriate treatment options to deal with his trauma and addictions issues.

Judge Heino Lilles expressed concerns about that comment, noting Linklater was shifting responsibility to the system.

“It’s not the way things work anywhere,” Lilles said. “(Linklater) is going to have to work aggressively to identify programming, services and support and bring them to him.”

In total Linklater was sentenced to two years and 120 days in jail. With the credit for time served, he has around four and a half months left to serve.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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