Victoria’s urban camper has received a 90-day intermittent sentence for breaching two court orders when he pitched a tent in Centennial Square last year.
David Arthur Johnston, who advocates for the homeless and the right to camp in city parks, was arrested on Sept. 17, 2012, after pitching a tent in Centennial Square. He pleaded guilty to the two breaches the next day.
At Johnston’s sentencing hearing Tuesday morning, City of Victoria prosecutor Troy DeSouza told Judge Loretta Chaperon that Johnston’s long history before the courts dates back to 1995.
“It’s not the nature of the offence — the setting up of the tent — it’s the repeated breaching,” DeSouza said.
A court-ordered assessment shows Johnston does not regret his actions or feel remorse and will certainly reoffend, DeSouza said.
Johnston, who represents himself and is often accompanied by dozens of supporters, appeared in Victoria provincial court by himself.
He told Chaperon he didn’t want to go back to jail and the reports show he’s lucid enough to be on the streets.
Chaperon observed that the assessment found him competent under the Mental Health Act and not a danger to himself.
“I know I’m not a criminal,” Johnston said. “I have been doing the right thing over and over again. There’s so much resistance.”
In 2008, the B.C. Supreme Court struck down a Victoria bylaw aimed at preventing homeless people from setting up tents and sleeping in city parks. The court ruled the bylaw deprived the homeless of life, liberty and security in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The city first appealed the decision and then amended the bylaw to restrict the camping to evenings. Johnston tried to challenge the new bylaw in both the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal, but was unsuccessful.
He told Chaperon Tuesday he has no other resources “than to make myself a martyr.”
“I will offend the instant I am released,” Johnston said.
Chaperon told Johnston we live in a society and we have to respect the rights of others.
“We’re part of society. We respect the law because we respect the rights of others…” she began to say, when Johnston appeared to lose his temper, interrupted and yelled at Chaperon.
“Just sentence me. You’re talking nonsense,” he said angrily.
Sheriffs moved in quickly as Johnston’s friend David Shebib, who arrived late to the courtroom, stood up and tried to talk to the judge. He and Johnston left the courthouse together.
Johnston has been ordered to begin his intermittent sentence on Friday, which will see him serve time in jail on weekends.
Chaperon placed him on an immediate probation order that applies when he is outside jail during his intermittent sentence. It will continue for 12 months after his time in custody has been served.
© Copyright 2013