A man who pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer with pepper spray has been sentenced to six months in jail after the Crown appealed the conditional sentence he was handed in Surrey provincial court.
Robert Wayne Chaston, 31, pleaded guilty on July 10 to assaulting a police officer with pepper spray — an indictable offence with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years — as well to breaking into a parkade with intent to commit an indictable offence, also an indictable offence carrying 10 years maximum.
Chaston was sentenced in Surrey provincial court on Sept. 8 to two concurrent conditional sentences — house arrest — which the Crown appealed while Chaston’s lawyer had sought a suspended sentence.
It was not his first offence against a peace officer. In January 2007 Chaston was convicted of obstructing a peace officer and in June 2005, flight while pursued by a peace officer.
“Mr. Chaston has been favoured many times with the leniency of conditional sentences or probation to address his repeated attempts to address his addiction,” Justice Anne MacKenzie noted in her reasons for judgment, delivered earlier this month in B.C.’s Court of Appeal in Vancouver. “He has also breached those court orders many times.”
The most recent case was June 29, at about 3 a.m., at a residential complex at 15988-26 Ave. in Surrey. A security guard called police to the scene from where a constable and his service dog tracked Chaston who had been hiding in some shrubbery. He refused to show himself and blasted the officer and dog with a “significant amount” of pepper spray. The sentencing judge noted the constable required two days off duty to recover from the attack.
After Chaston was arrested he spent 12 days in pre-trial custody before pleading guilty to his crimes, and was then released on bail.
MacKenzie noted Chaston apologized to the officer at the scene and later provided him with a written apology.
The Crown sought 23 months of consecutive sentences — nine months for the break-in and 14 months for assaulting the police officer, followed by probation. “The Crown opposed a conditional sentence in light of Mr. Chaston’s previous history of failing to comply with conditional sentences,” Mackenzie noted.
The court heard Chaston had enjoyed a “positive home environment” as a child but nevertheless developed a drug addiction that made him a “menace in the community.” Despite attending various treatment programs “he has followed a cycle of sobriety and relapse, accumulating a substantial criminal record for break and enter and other property offences.
“Of particular relevance to this appeal are the convictions for breaches of at least four court orders of conditional sentences of probation as set out in the pre-sentence report,” MacKenzie noted.
The defence sought conditional sentences so as noted to interfere with Chaston’s rehabilitation at VisionQuest Recovery Society, which he started after getting bail. The provincial court judge decided concurrent 18-month conditional sentences — house arrest — followed by a year’s probation was appropriate.
MacKenzie decided otherwise. “Violations against police officers are unacceptable and must be denounced,” she said, and imposed a six-month prison term for the assault on the constable and a suspended sentence for the break-in, with a year’s probation.
Appeal Court Justices John Hunter and Mary Saunders agreed.
Saunders added “a few words” to Chaston.
She said his apology and steps he has taken to improve himself “is why the sentence is a little less than it would have been otherwise. You have, by your own actions, managed to reduced the sentence to some degree. So, know that this sentence represents a break being given to you today and that any reoffending will attract a very firm response.”