Judge Gregory Rideout changed his mind, then discovered it wasn’t so easy to change his sentence.
On Tuesday, convicted rioter Robert Snelgrove evaded jail when the provincial court judge sentenced the Coquitlam man to three months house arrest, two months curfew, 16 months probation and 150 hours community service. The 25-year-old was also fined $500 and ordered to write a letter of apology.
But on Thursday, Judge Rideout called lawyers back to court and tried to slash the community service by two-thirds, saying he was concerned about setting a precedent that could clog the justice system as more than 100 riot-related cases make their way through the court.
The judge also noted convicted rioter Emmanuel Alviar, who played a bigger role in the mayhem than Mr. Snelgrove by participating at three different points, received 150 hours community service following a one-month jail sentence. A more appropriate service for Mr. Snelgrove – who participated at only one point, stealing beauty products from a Sears department store – is 50 hours, he said.
“As the legion of cases come through this building, this case will be one of the cases relied upon by my colleagues in relation to the element of participation,” he said. “I am mindful that it is important that there be a proportionate and balanced approach.”
However, Judge Rideout’s amendment hit a roadblock when it was pointed out the court does not have the authority to make a substantive change to a sentence under the Criminal Code; only the accused, Crown or probation office can make such an application, and only after the order – community service, in this case – has started. Once the court has pronounced a sentence, its jurisdiction is exhausted.
Mr. Snelgrove’s lawyer, Chandra Corriveau, viewed the intended reduction as the action of a judge “deeply concerned with doing the right thing.”
“Upon some reflection, he concluded that Mr. Snelgrove, having participated to a much lesser degree than a couple of the other accused who have already been sentenced, that it was not appropriate to give them the same number of community work service hours.”
She said 50 hours on top of house arrest is sufficient for her client, who has been publicly vilified – persona non grata for a year in the city.
Ms. Corriveau said she will make the application once her client has begun his community service, noting “it would be imprudent of me, in all the circumstances, not to bring Mr. Snelgrove back at some point if he’s done the things he needs to do.”
Mr. Snelgrove is the third person sentenced for participation in the June, 2011, riot; Mr. Alviar the second. The first person sentenced, Ryan Dickinson, was handed a 17-month jail sentence in February, minus 3½ months credit for time served. Mr. Dickinson’s case, however, was something of an anomaly, as he already had a criminal record for assault.