Crown seeks prison in Am­ber Alert case

PressReader - LStep Channel - Crown seeks prison in Am­ber Alert case
NORTH BATTLEFORD A pro­vin­cial court judge is faced with the chal­lenge of sen­tenc­ing a trou­bled, cog­ni­tively im­paired young man who con­tin­ues to of­fend de­spite “ex­tra­or­di­nary” at­tempts to help him.Judge Bruce Bauer said he can’t give up on at­tempt­ing to re­ha­bil­i­tate Johnathan Ryann Gunville, the North Battleford man who prompted an Am­ber Alert on Sept. 16, 2018, when he stole a run­ning Mercedes with a six-year-old girl in­side.How­ever, the sen­tence also needs to pro­tect the pub­lic from his pat­tern of steal­ing ve­hi­cles, tak­ing them on “joyrides” and evad­ing po­lice, Bauer said.Gunville, 19, did not look to see if any­one was in­side the SUV when he drove away from a strip mall, court heard dur­ing the man’s sen­tenc­ing hear­ing on Wednes­day. Once he re­al­ized the girl was in the back seat, he “pan­icked,” de­fence lawyer Bill Archer said. Gunville couldn’t ask the girl ques­tions be­cause she has autism and is non-ver­bal.In­stead, he ditched the ve­hi­cle in an in­dus­trial area. The girl wasn’t found un­til the next morn­ing when a man rec­og­nized the miss­ing SUV and called po­lice. Gunville said he didn’t call po­lice, even though he wor­ried the girl might die, be­cause he was wanted on breach charges.In her vic­tim im­pact state­ment, the girl’s mother, who can’t be named to pro­tect her child’s iden­tity, said she spent 14 hours in pure agony.“Each hour that passed grew darker, colder. It was im­pos­si­ble to keep the ‘What ifs’ out of our mind. What if she was be­ing abused?”The woman said she was “be­yond grate­ful” that her daugh­ter wasn’t hurt, but it didn’t erase the sleep­less nights. A so­cial me­dia storm of blame against her soon fol­lowed.Archer said the girl’s par­ents should not be at­tacked for a “mo­men­tary lapse in judg­ment.”“This is on Johnathan. He bares the re­spon­si­bil­ity for what hap­pened.”Gunville pleaded guilty to aban­don­ing a child, ve­hi­cle theft, driv­ing while dis­qual­i­fied and dan­ger­ous driv­ing. Crown pros­e­cu­tor Lee Hnatiuk ar­gued he should serve a three-year pen­i­ten­tiary sen­tence, prefer­ably at the Re­gional Psy­chi­atric Cen­tre in Saska­toon, where he would get proper pro­gram­ming.Archer ar­gued the best op­tion for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion would be a pro­vin­cial jail sen­tence of 18 months to two years less a day, served at the Saskatchewan Hos­pi­tal.Bauer re­served his de­ci­sion un­til Feb. 20, say­ing his con­cern is not that Gunville will go around snatch­ing chil­dren and aban­don­ing them, but that he will con­tinue his pat­tern of dan­ger­ous driv­ing.Four days af­ter the Am­ber Alert, wit­nesses ob­served Gunville run­ning stop signs, do­ing dough­nuts in the mid­dle of the street, swerv­ing in and out of traf­fic and driv­ing into a ditch in a stolen truck. He wouldn’t stop for po­lice.Gunville told an un­der­cover of­fi­cer he “wanted to go for a lit­tle drive” and that it was “awe­some,” court heard. He later said he didn’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween what he could do on his favourite video game and what he could do in real life.Ac­cord­ing to a pre-sen­tence re­port, Gunville was dropped on his head as an in­fant and func­tions at a low in­tel­lec­tual level. He was con­stantly teased and in trou­ble as a child, is eas­ily in­flu­enced, im­pul­sive, im­ma­ture and lacks in­sight into his be­hav­iour and drug use, court heard.Bauer asked Hnatiuk if there is a re­duced cul­pa­bil­ity given Gunville’s “deficits.” Hnatiuk said no be­cause ev­ery ef­fort to re­ha­bil­i­tate him af­ter his 31 prior con­vic­tions has been un­suc­cess­ful.“There are op­tions avail­able to him. He’s cho­sen not to use them,” Hnatiuk said.Both lawyers and re­port writ­ers agreed Gunville re­quires stable com­mu­nity sup­port once he is re­leased.Archer said his client wanted the six-year-old girl’s mom to know he is sorry and glad that her daugh­ter is “OK.”It might not seem like much, Archer told the woman, paus­ing be­fore say­ing it’s all they have to of­fer.

Johnathan Ryann Gunville was ar­rested and charged in North Battleford in con­nec­tion with the Sept. 16, 2018, theft of an SUV with a child in it, which ini­ti­ated an Am­ber Alert.

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