It’s unlikely Phillip Patrick Field will ever be confused with Jesse James or any other world-famous thief. The loot the 40-year-old collects when plundering rarely adds up to more than a hundred dollars. But his criminal career has been long and the list of his crimes lengthy.
On Wednesday in provincial court, Field pleaded guilty to a long list of robberies, the most notorious of which was a string of poppy cans he gaffed from various Tim Hortons locations in the St. John’s area in the fall of 2013.
It was the nature of his crimes that the Crown concentrated on during Field’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, saying his thefts were repugnant and offensive, not because of the monetary value of what was taken, but because of who the money was meant for. Money collected in poppy cans is meant to help veterans and their families during times of extreme need.
In a victim impact statement from the Royal Canadian Legion, the court heard how veterans were shocked to hear somebody had stolen money in poppy cans and one war veteran was even in tears. Field also once stole a collection can from a Wendy’s restaurant location meant for an adoption foundation.
There were other crimes the court heard about Wednesday that were as perplexing. Field broke into a shed at one point and stole a can of gasoline. He also had several instances of pumping gas at various filling stations and leaving without paying. There was an incident of him stealing a purse from the woman on the desk at the Hotel Mount Pearl. Another time he stole ceramic tile from a house under construction on Logy Bay Road where he had worked as a siding installer.
Field addressed the court and pointed to a long-standing addiction to drugs as the reason for his crimes. He said he has been battling addiction for half his life.
At one point he lived in Western Canada where he said he had straightened his life out. He was working as a truck driver there when he was in an accident and injured badly. He saw two other people die in that accident. Collectively, the court was told by the defence that this drove Field back to a life of drug use and a life of crime to fund it.
The defence also said that while the Crown may point to society finding Field’s crimes abhorrent, Field agrees.
Field has gone through a number of drug and substance abuse programs, but told the court he wants to straighten out his life. He asked the court to give him a federal sentence rather than a provincial one. He kept his head down for much of the hearing until he stood to speak to Judge Mike Madden. He apologized to the people he had hurt with his crimes and said while he couldn’t see how he could pay the money back, he could do right by them by getting better. A federal sentence would give him access to a lot more programs, he told Madden. And that would help put him onto a life of the straight and narrow.
Madden will make his decision on Field’s sentence Friday.