The work of a sharp-eyed Mountie has led to nearly nine months more jail time for a local man who pleaded guilty to stealing a skid steer and a trailer in Quesnel.
Dale Allen West, 34, was sentenced Wednesday to an additional 265 days behind bars for two counts of theft over $5,000 and one count each of possession of stolen property over $5,000 and possession of a prohibited weapon.
West, who pleaded guilty to the charges, was arrested May 30 in Quesnel after an RCMP member in the community, 116 kilometres south of Prince George, noticed a pickup truck with two different plates being driven erratically along Racing and Ryan Roads.
When she received confirmation it had been stolen from a Prince George home two nights before and that one of the missing plates had just been found, she went onto Ryan Road where she found West and another man hooking a trailer carrying a skid steer onto the pickup truck.
The two responded by taking off in the pickup truck, cutting across a field and heading towards Highway 97. Police eventually traced the truck to the parking lot at Cariboo Pulp on North Star Road and after calling in a tracking dog, apprehended the two in a nearby wooded area.
Two backpacks were uncovered and in West's was found an assortment of items, including a can of bear spray.
Defence counsel had been seeking a conditional sentence order, effectively house arrest, plus enhanced credit for time served related to the time it took to get the matter concluded. Since his arrest, West has been taking counselling for drug addiction and it was proposed he serve his term at a treatment centre in the Fraser Valley.
If jail was deemed appropriate, it should be no more than five months, defence submitted, while Crown prosecution argued for a year behind bars.
Brecknell decided on 300 days in jail less 35 days time served for the two theft charges and lesser concurrent terms on the two other counts, basing his decision, in part, on West's extensive criminal record.
Seven years ago West responded to the breakup of a long-term relationship by reverting back to a drug habit he had as a teen and started consuming crack cocaine. Since then, he has accumulated 45 criminal convictions, a dozen of them for property offences.
As well, West was on probation at the time of the most recent arrest, tried to flee the RCMP, the truck was driven dangerously and the bear spray could have been used to help commit a crime, it was noted.
Additional credit for time served was suggested due to a chain of event surrounding the case.
It was argued that West had trouble securing a lawyer, and so represented himself for a period and at one point, a sentencing hearing had to be adjourned midway because it was realized he failed to formally plead guilty to the charges. The case was not heard in Quesnel because one of the victims was associated with the community's court registry, causing another delay.
But Brecknell found some of the delay was due to the decisions West made, along with unavoidable delays related to the court system.
He also found West's time in custody has not been inordinately long. Although West has been in custody for 124 days, 89 of them were counted towards the sentence he received on July 30 for some other charges.
Brecknell recommended West serve his time at Prince George Regional Correctional Centre so his family can maintain contact with him. West was also sentenced to 15 months probation, up from the one year Crown had suggested, to give him additional time for intensive drug and alcohol treatment.
Three other men continue to face charges related to a string of truck and motorized equipment thefts police said were committed by an small organized group at the end of May and start of June.