Axe-wielding senior has 58 days left to serve — (The Western Star)

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The Western Star

Published on November 10, 2011

Cory Hurley

CORNER BROOK ­ An elderly Corner Brook man involved in a heated dispute with his neighbour earlier this year that led to his multiple arrests, was sentenced to jail Wednesday.

John David Hicks, 70, was found guilty on charges of assault with a weapon, uttering threats to cause death, and breaching probation following a trial last month. He was previously granted a suspended sentence and a period of probation for threatening to damage property.

These are the only crimes on record for Hicks, all stemming from instances involving a female who lived next door to him.

He was first arrested in January for threatening to destroy property belonging to the 20-year-old woman. He was released the next day, but arrested again 10 days later for threatening her physical harm.

Eventually pleaded guilty

After a lengthy delay, in which he remained in custody for months, Hicks eventually pleaded guilty and was released on the suspended sentence in April. During the time he was in custody, he underwent psychiatric assessment at the Waterford Hospital.

However, May 19, Hicks was arrested again after he ran at the same neighbour with an axe in his hand. He swung the axe in a downward motion, but made no attempt to strike the woman, the court concluded. He also threatened to kill her while in police custody, and was charged with breaching his probation.

Hicks spent two days in custody before being released on bail. However, he went back to jail after his daughter revoked the surety due to concerns she had over him not taking his medication. He has been in custody for 70 days since.

Provincial court Judge Kymil Howe imposed a sentence of 120 days in jail ­ 90 days for the assault with a weapon charge, 30 days for the breach of probation (to be served concurrently), and 30 days for uttering threats (to be served consecutive) ­ minus 72 days he has already served. Crown attorney Lori St. Croix requested a period of imprisonment between seven and 11 months, while legal-aid lawyer Jamie Luscombe asked for time served and a conditional sentence of one-to-three months.

Howe said she had to balance between the purpose and principals of sentencing and dealing with an elderly member of society who only ever got in trouble with the law this year. On the other hand, she said, she also had to be mindful of the potential harm to members of the public.

Hicks was diagnosed with depression in 1999, and has been taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication. A doctor’s assessment before the court Wednesday noted concern of early symptoms of dementia.

The judge also said she was not satisfied Hicks was a good candidate for a conditional sentence because of his previous inability to obey release and probation conditions. She said such a sentence would likely put him at risk to re-offend.

After completing his further 58-day sentence, Hicks will have to abide by probation conditions for 18 months ­ including no contact with the victim, whom the court was informed no longer resides in the province; and attend all counselling, assessment and treatment sessions set out by a probation officer. He must submit a sample of his DNA and an existing five-year firearms prohibition remains in effect.