Killer de­nied faint-hope hear­ing for early pa­role

The Province - - NEWS - KIM BOLAN [email protected]­media.com blog: van­cou­ver­sun.com/tag/real-scoop twit­ter.com/kbolan

A judge has de­nied killer Rob­bie Soomel a chance at early pa­role, say­ing that a jury is not likely to vote unan­i­mously in Soomel’s favour if he or­dered a faint-hope hear­ing.

B.C. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ge­orge Mac­in­tosh agreed with Soomel’s lawyer Brent An­der­son that his client has made strides to­ward re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion over the last six years in jail.

But Mac­in­tosh also said Soomel was in­volved in two bru­tal mur­ders in 1997 and 2000 and had poor prison be­hav­iour for the first 12 years of his life sen­tence.

Soomel was con­victed of the first-de­gree mur­der of friend-turned-drug trade ri­val Gur­preet Sohi, who was shot to death in a Delta base­ment suite in Septem­ber 2000. And Soomel pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der for as­sist­ing with the con­tracted killing of Ja­son Herle in Ab­bots­ford in 1997. Soomel was just 18 at the time.

At his mur­der trial, he was also iden­ti­fied as a sus­pect in the still-un­solved 1998 as­sas­si­na­tion of jour­nal­ist Tara Singh Hayer, who had agreed to tes­tify for the Crown in the Air In­dia ter­ror­ism case.

The faint-hope clause al­lows mur­der­ers who killed be­fore De­cem­ber 2011 to ap­ply for a chance at early pa­role af­ter serv­ing 15 years of their sen­tence. The clause has been elim­i­nated for those who killed af­ter the 2011 cut-off date.

In a two-step process, a judge only or­ders a faint-hope hear­ing be­fore a jury if he or she be­lieves that jury would rule unan­i­mously to re­duce the pa­role in­el­i­gi­bil­ity pe­riod.

“I do not find on the bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties that there is a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood that a 12-mem­ber jury would find unan­i­mously that Mr. Soomel’s pa­role in­el­i­gi­bil­ity should be re­duced,” Mac­in­tosh said Thurs­day. "I view Mr. Soomel’s prospect at this stage as be­ing more of a long shot than what could be termed a rea­son­able prospect.”

He said if a jury was em­pan­elled to hear Soomel’s fainthope ap­pli­ca­tion, he doubted it “could get past the fact that Mr. Soomel killed two times — once in the first-de­gree mur­der he or­ches­trated and the other in the con­spir­acy to gun down a man in front of his girl­friend.”

Soomel watched the pro­ceed­ings Thurs­day via video link from Wil­liam Head prison near Vic­to­ria, where he was moved in 2014 af­ter get­ting clas­si­fied as a min­i­mum-se­cu­rity pris­oner. He looked solemn when Mac­in­tosh read out his con­clu­sion.

Crown Dan Mul­li­gan ar­gued that Soomel has con­tin­ued to min­i­mize his role as the leader of the Sohi mur­der plot and not shown any deep re­morse.

He also pointed to dozens of in­sti­tu­tional charges and con­vic­tions Soomel racked up in prison for of­fences like posses­sion of a knife and var­i­ous il­licit sub­stances.

An­der­son said in his sub­mis­sions that Soomel has qual­i­fied for es­corted trips into the com­mu­nity to at­tend a Sikh tem­ple, has taken many cour­ses in jail, and par­tic­i­pates in the an­nual Wil­liams Head drama pro­duc­tion. Soomel meets all the cri­te­ria for a fainthope hear­ing, he said.

Mac­in­tosh said “Soomel’s marked im­prove­ment in the last six years is com­mend­able, but it is not enough in my view. The ap­pli­ca­tion is dis­missed.”

RCMP Cpl. Carla Ri­vard, who worked on the Hayer mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion dubbed Project Ex­pe­dio, was in court for Soomel’s faint-hope ap­pli­ca­tion.

She said af­ter­wards that “it’s the po­si­tion of the RCMP that Mr. Soomel serve his sen­tence to its fullest mea­sure.”

“Out of re­spect for Mr. Sohi and Mr. Herle and their fam­i­lies, we will al­ways be here adamantly op­pos­ing any con­sid­er­a­tion of Mr. Soomel’s early pa­role,” Ri­vard said.

Left, a Grade 8 photo of Rob­bie Soomel, who was con­victed of the first-de­gree mur­der of friend-turned­drug trade ri­val Gur­preet Sohi, right.

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