© — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
In sentencing Leo Crockwell to four years for an armed standoff in which shots were fired at police, Justice Richard LeBlanc said two “poignant moments” during the trial stuck out for him.
One was the testimony of Crockwell’s mother, and her concern for her son’s mental well-being. “She obviously loves you and cares for you,” said LeBlanc.
The other, said LeBlanc, was the testimony of police officers who were shot at when they tried to enter the house during a six-day barricade in December 2010 — people, pointed out the judge in Supreme Court Friday afternoon, who could have been seriously harmed by Leo Crockwell’s actions.
“But for the grace of God, Mr. Crockwell,” said LeBlanc. “But for the grace of God.”
In his ruling, LeBlanc spoke of the difficulties of coming to an appropriate sentence, weighing the seriousness of the several charges — including assault with a weapon and carelessly using a firearm — against mandatory minimum sentencing as well as mitigating factors such as Crockwell’s mental state and the damage done to Crockwell’s home. LeBlanc called Crockwell’s mental impairment “quite obvious.” Crockwell has not acknowledged any mental health problems, but says he is the victim of a police conspiracy and has not shown any remorse for — or even any understanding of the consequences of — his actions. LeBlanc said Crockwell is in denial about his own mental health.
LeBlanc determined a sentence of five years, nine months and one day — four for discharging the firearm at police, one year for the use of a firearm in an offence, nine months for the assault on his sister and one day for firing his gun into the wall of his house before the standoff began — to be too much. Instead, he decided four years was a more appropriate punishment, followed by three years of probation. With credit given for the more than two years Crockwell has spent in custody since the standoff, he has 21 months and 25 days left to serve.
“I can only hope you get something out of this process, and that you understand just how serious your behaviour is, and how much trouble you’ve caused for a lot of people,” LeBlanc said. “You need help, and I hope you get it,” he added, before Crockwell was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom. Crockwell didn’t respond to reporters who asked if he planned to appeal.
After the sentencing, Crockwell’s brother Bill Crockwell said he’s glad the sentence allows Leo to serve his time within the province and close to family support. He said the judge’s comments about his brother’s mental health show that it’s difficult for the justice system to help people with mental health problems.
“You’re getting a personal opinion here, and the sad part is, with all the power of the court, they can’t — people who have health issues, it’s hard for the court to address taking care of them,” he said. “They try to make these compliance orders to some extent, but it seems like there must be a better way or some other way where they can be helped before they get to that point.”