Andrew Stevenson was sentenced to 10 years in jail Wednesday in Nelson court for his spate of armed robberies in the West Kootenay in the spring of 2014.
The time Stevenson has already spent in custody will be taken into account, leaving him eight years and four months to serve.
Earlier this year, Stevenson pled guilty to eight robbery and weapons charges after armed hold-ups at the Nelson and District Credit Union and Kootenay Currency Exchange, in Castlegar at Kootenay Savings, in Robson at Johnny’s Grocery, and break-ins at two Castlegar pharmacies.
The Nelson credit union robbery led to a dramatic car chase and apprehension by the Nelson Police Department.
In their sentencing submissions on Tuesday, crown prosecutor Sunday Patola asked for 11 years and defence lawyer Ken Wyllie advocated for eight.
In his reasons for judgement yesterday, Judge Richard Hewson enumerated the factors that most affected his decision.
• Stevenson’s crimes were pre-meditated.
• He disguised himself with a balaclava and a hoodie.
• There were multiple robberies in multiple locations over a period of 49 days.
• The victims were bank employees and bystanders, and this was a violation of public security.
• He used imitation and prohibited weapons.
• He has a criminal record.
• He was not motivated by greed but by addiction.
• He pled guilty, sparing the courts and the victims a long trial.
• He has a supportive family and has some possibility of rehabilitation.
• His remorse is genuine.
In her sentencing submission, Patola outlined her reasons why Stevenson should not be sentenced leniently, stating that he:
• used a loaded gun (a sawed-off shotgun) in some robberies,
• led police on a dangerous high-speed chase through downtown Nelson in the middle of the day,
• pointed a firearm at a police officer,
• discharged a firearm during one of the robberies,
• robbed two banks during customer hours, putting the general public at risk,
• created anxiety, flashbacks, and other “extreme victim impact” for the employees of the places he robbed, many of them requiring counselling.
In Stevenson’s defence, Wyllie explained that his client contracted rheumatoid arthritis as a child and this eventually led to a hip replacement and a lifetime of physical pain, leading to an addiction to alcohol and black market prescription drugs including Oxycodeine and morphine. He said Stevenson stopped drinking several years ago and has been weaned off of prescription drugs during his time in prison.
He said Stevenson has a Grade 10 education and is qualified only for manual labour, which he was successful at for a time but then went on disability because of his arthritis.
At the time of his arrest in 2014, Wyllie said, Stevenson was the sole supporter of his two children who now live with their mother. He said the separation from his children has been painful for Stevenson, as has the feeling that he has brought shame on his family.
Wyllie said a psychiatric assessment contained in a pre-sentence report states Stevenson is at high risk to re-offend if he does not deal with his addictions. But his client is confident he can stay off drugs once he is released, Wyllie said, and he “demonstrates a credible insight into the impact on his victims.”
In his reasons for judgement, Hewson pointed out that the legislated minimum penalties for all of the eight counts against Stevenson would logically lead to a jail sentence of 19 years, which would have been excessive, he said, so he specified that the penalties for several of the offences would run concurrently.
When Wyllie finished his sentencing submission, Hewson asked him how his statements about Stevenson’s remorse could be squared with the fact that Stevenson attempted to escape from custody at the Nelson courthouse in September 2014.
Wyllie replied: “It was impulsive. He bolted, because he wanted to see his children.”
“But he says he accepts responsibility for his actions,” Hewson said. “How is his conduct [attempting to escape] consistent with that?”
“I can’t respond to that,” Wyllie said. “He has paid for that with his sentence. It was not inherently contradictory to his remorse. I can’t add anything further than that.”
As court was being adjourned at the sentencing hearing, Stevenson stood up in the prisoner’s box where he sat handcuffed and attentive throughout the proceeding and asked if he could say something.
Stevenson told the court that when he attempted to escape he was still on Oxycontin prescribed by his doctor, and that he was not thinking clearly. Since then he has stopped taking all prescription drugs.
Asked by the judge if he wanted to say anything else, Stevenson said, “I want to apologize to the victims. I pray for their mental and emotional recovery.”
After sentencing, Patola told the media she thought the sentence was appropriate and that it will help the victims.
“Reading the victim impact statements, I think their sense of safety in the community has been damaged by these events.”
An employee of one of the workplaces Stevenson robbed also spoke to the media after attending the sentencing hearing.
“For me, coming to the proceedings was actually a really healing thing, to see Mr. Stevenson as a person instead as the demon that he appeared to be on the day he came in,” she said.
“The sentence was definitely appropriate and I hope he avails himself of counselling for his addictions and I hope he makes better choices in the future.
“A lot of us are still affected by his actions,” she continued. “It changed my feeling of safety in Nelson for long time. I am starting to recover that, but there are still definitely moments where it will all come back and there are physical reactions and anxiety, but that said, it has given me the opportunity to deal with those things and improve myself. So there is a balance.”
Wyllie, following the sentencing, told the media that Stevenson will not be appeal the decision because that would delay his access to addictions treatment and other programs in prison.
“I think it was a fair and just disposition,” Wyllie said.
“I think he is deeply remorseful, and the judge accepted that. I don’t think he in any way appreciated the impact that his conduct had until he [read] the victim impact statements.”
Krista Kalmikoff, Stevenson’s co-accused in the robberies, has pled not guilty and a trial date has been set for the last two weeks of November and first week of December.
(CORRECTION: An earlier headline erroneously stated that Stevenson was sentenced to 11 years.)