A judge must decide whether to send a man who stabbed his friend in the neck to prison for seven years or allow him to serve a two-year sentence in the community followed by probation.
On Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jan Brongers noted the disparity between the positions of Crown and defence at Christopher Parker’s sentencing hearing.
Parker was convicted of the aggravated assault of Ronald Oster on Nov. 13, 2020, at the former Paul’s Motor Inn on Douglas Street, which had been purchased by the province in May 2020 and converted to a housing facility with supports for vulnerable people.
Oster, then 46, had allowed Parker and his girlfriend, Amanda Johnson, to stay with him because Johnson had severe pneumonia. At the time, Oster was a regular marijuana and meth user. Parker was a heavy fentanyl user.
It was against the rules to have overnight guests and because Oster did not want to lose his room, he repeatedly told Parker and Johnson they had to leave. There was also tension between Oster and Parker because Oster owed Parker $30 for drugs.
On Nov. 13, he told Parker to come by and pick up the money. Oster tried to open the door when Parker knocked, but garbage on the floor made it difficult. When he bent over to pick it up, Parker came up behind him and stabbed him in the neck.
Oster suffered extensive, long-term and debilitating injuries in the attack, including significant motor loss on the right side of his body. He was unable to walk for two and a half years.
Defence lawyer Neil Brooks told the court that Parker, 40, is a changed man who was in the throes of addiction and at the lowest point of his life when he attacked Oster.
Parker had an abusive childhood and was placed in foster care, said Brooks. He was diagnosed with severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a severe learning disability and had several closed head injuries in his youth, the defence lawyer said.
At the time of the attack, Parker was struggling with homelessness and chaos, said Brooks. But now, through his girlfriend, he has found a family and has pulled himself out of drug addiction by taking an opiate replacement, said the defence lawyer, noting that Parker has been on strict bail conditions for three years without any problems.
“Mr. Parker is doing exceptionally. He’s doing his absolute best, which is better than he ever was,” said Brooks. “If he’s incarcerated, all of that goes away. He gets reinstitutionalized.”
But Crown prosecutor Jeni Gillings called two years less a day “not even close to being appropriate.”
Gillings told the judge there’s no evidence Parker is a changed man. Letters of reference attesting to his character were written by friends — including one man convicted of three robberies — who do not even reference the offence, she said.
There is also no evidence to support the defence claim that Parker is clean or that he has a brain injury, said Gillings.
The judge is expected to deliver his decision on Dec. 8.