It may have been hard for some to reconcile the Colin Wheeler who committed more than a dozen crimes in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary over the nine months with the Colin Wheeler who addressed the court Friday afternoon.
Convicted of serious offences — including punching an inmate in the face to the point he required stitches, throwing urine at a correctional officer when she tried to serve him breakfast in his cell, telling the same officer he would hunt her down and kill her, and beating the sink off his cell wall and pulling out the plumbing so the cell flooded — Wheeler was calm and articulate when asked by Judge Mark Pike if he had anything to say.
Wheeler pointed out he had been in segregation in HMP for more than 300 days, which he claimed is “the most guards have seen since the prison opened in the 1800s.”
“I do take responsibility for putting myself there for a large portion of the time due to behavioural problems,” Wheeler said, asking the judge to consider he has a number of mental health issues for which he was denied medication in prison.
“I had deteriorated to the point where I acted in ways I’d never act in my regular life,” he said, insisting he had, until now, never committed a crime without being intoxicated.
Friday marked Wheeler’s second sentencing in court this week: on Thursday, he was handed a 3.5-year jail sentence in Corner Brook for charges of assault with a knife, mischief and breaching court orders in connection with an October 2017 incident involving two women. At the time, Wheeler had just finished a four-year sentence for forcible confinement and assault in B.C.; before that, he had earned a four-year sentence for a stabbing in Corner Brook.
It was while on remand awaiting proceedings on last year’s incident that Wheeler committed the crimes at HMP. There were 11 incidents in total, with the charges ranging from mischief for pulling the fire alarm to assault causing bodily harm.
In one incident, the court heard Wheeler had gotten upset after being denied phone calls to family members, ripping a fire exit sign from the ceiling and using it to hit the fire alarm, setting it off. He later told correctional officers he would pull the fire alarm daily because they had reported an incident to the police, and he followed up with that promise by activating the alarm on a number of occasions.
There was an incident where Wheeler broke lights in the prison, three assaults on other inmates, and a phone call to one of the victims of last year’s assault on the west coast. The incident in which Wheeler assaulted an officer by scooping urine from the toilet and throwing it at her through the hatch of his cell when she opened it to give him breakfast happened last August. Wheeler made the threat against the same officer’s life last week.
“I think most people would rather have a punch or a kick to the face than have urine scooped from the toilet and thrown at them,” prosecutor Robin Singleton told the court, noting Wheeler “obviously has a problem with violent behaviour” and asking for a sentence that would send a message of no tolerance of those actions.
Singleton and defence lawyer Shanna Wicks presented a joint suggestion of 395 days in prison, to be served after the sentence Wheeler received Thursday.
Wicks stressed Wheeler’s mental health issues, which she said include oppositional defiance disorder, anti-social personality disorder and addiction, among others, and said his time without medication and in segregation has severely aggravated those issues.
Pike acknowledged Wheeler’s crimes would normally have attracted a harsher punishment, but agreed to the joint sentencing submission since it was the result of a plea bargain.