Jail is not the answer for armed robber: lawyer

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on January 14, 2012
Travis Wade was in provincial court in St. John's Friday afternoon for his sentencing hearing. The 27-year-old has pleaded guilty to charges that include armed robbery, assault and damage to property. Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

The Crown wants Travis Leonard Wade locked up for a long time. Wade's lawyer says that's not the answer.

"Everybody wants a society free of crime," Averill Baker said during Wade's sentencing hearing Friday at provincial court in St. John's.

"How that's done, in my opinion, is not through lengthy sentences. The statistics show it.

"Keeping people in jail might make people (in the public) feel better, but it does not make this a better society."

Instead, Baker said, the best way to prevent Wade from further criminal activity is "to focus on improvement in his behaviour and rehabilitation."

Wade was found guilty in November of armed robbery and breaching two court orders in connection with an incident that happened May 16, 2010.

The 27-year-old went into the Ultramar gas station in Conception Bay South, slammed a hammer on the counter and demanded money and cigarettes. He made off with $199 and 25 packages of cigarettes.

The cashier provided a detailed description of Wade - who was also recorded on the in-store security video - and later identified him from a police photo lineup.

Wade has been in custody since he was arrested in June 2010, when policed tracked him down in a downtown St. John's area.

Prior convictions

Crown prosecutor Heidi Wells suggested Wade be given a six-year jail term, pointing to his lengthy criminal record, which includes convictions for assault with a weapon and assault.

"Mr. Wade has received shorter sentences and longer sentences," Wells said, "but he's taken no deterrent message. The sentences have had no salutary effect. ... Protection of the public is paramount."

She also requested that Wade be ordered to pay back the money he took from the store.

However, Baker said Wade has made significant progress while behind bars at Her Majesty's Penitentiary (HMP). She said he has attended addiction counselling and is enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous.

As an example of his issues, Baker pointed out that when Wade held up the gas station, he said to the clerk, "I don't want to hurt you. I'm sorry, but I'm f---ked up."

"This is a man who was so strung out and so horribly out of it, he's apologizing," she said.

She said Wade has also completed education upgrading at HMP and has received positive feedback from psychologists and counsellors.

She added that Wade is the father of two small children, is a trained journeyman and can have a bright future.

"Here's a man who has the ability to contribute to society, but is sitting in jail," Baker said.

She said the Crown is off base in suggesting such a lengthy jail term.

"With the greatest respect to Ms. Wells, she is way out of line in asking for six years (in jail)," Baker said.

"This isn't one of those cases that calls for six years. It doesn't even call for four years. It's doesn't even call for two years."

At one point in her arguments, Baker suggested a sentence of time served.

That sentencing hearing was followed by another, in relation to two separate incidents. Wade pleaded guilty to two charges of damaging property and one count of assault.

The property damage charges stemmed from an incident at HMP May 21, 2011, while he was in custody on the armed robbery charge.

At 9:25 a.m., he and another inmate, Philip Wayne Pynn, stuffed a mattress down the toilet, causing the entire main unit at the prison to flood.

They also smashed a security camera in an attempt to dislodge it.

On June 17, Wade and Pynn assaulted another inmate at the holding cells at provincial court. The men repeatedly punched the man until sheriff's officers stepped in.

The Crown prosecutor on that case, Lisa Stead, asked for a four-month prison term, which she asked to be added on to the sentence Wade will get for the armed robbery.

Lori Marshall, who represents Wade in this case, said a jail term of between two and three months is more appropriate. She asked that Wade serve it at the same time he's serving his sentence for the armed robbery.

Judge Colin Flynn will render his decision on bother cases Jan. 26.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelyCourt