“It’s like Groundhog Day,” said a frustrated Ontario Court judge as a repeat offender stood before him in Ontario Court asking for “one more chance”.
Isaak Peters Epp, 36, was caught driving on June 12 last year despite six court orders not to drive and while he was serving weekend jail for the same offence seven weeks earlier.
But the Norfolk County man’s lawyer and the Crown attorney agreed on a deal that would see him sentenced to time served and an extended period of house arrest.
“I have a hard time wrapping my head around this when you look at his priors,” said Justice Robert Gee.
“This is his seventh drive disqualified. Given his history and what we see in the pre-sentence report, how does a conditional sentence not put the safety of the community at risk since he has a complete disregard for court orders?”
And, said the judge, disqualified driving wasn’t the only charge Epp was facing.
When he was arrested on Schafer Side Road near Courtland in June, he was also charged with obstructing police by giving a fake name. In April, he was charged with stealing a vehicle and breaching probation.
“Why is he not facing penitentiary time now?” Gee asked Crown attorney Shane Hickingbottom.
“He has two or three lifetime driving prohibitions and he still drives. How do I rationalize that to the community?”
But Hickingbottom and defence lawyer, Jason Alsbergas, explained that Epp had served the remainder of his weekend jail sentence in regular jail and then served another 153 days in custody. Enhanced at the usual one-and-a-half for every one day of pre-trial custody, that gave him credit for seven-and-a-half months. When added to what the lawyers suggested for a conditional sentence, it equalled a global sentence of 20 months, which was a sharp increase from previous sentences.
The lawyers agreed an electronically monitored home arrest, where Epp would be unable to be anywhere – including in a vehicle – that he wasn’t supposed to be, would maintain tight control of him.
“The Supreme Court has indicated that a conditional sentence still served the purposes of general deterrence,” said Alsbergas, “and he has the support of his family this time.”
“He’s had the support of his parents throughout,” said Gee. “He always says he’s going to deal with his issues and never follows through.”
Alsbergas pointed out that any minor breach of Epp’s three-year probation would bring the man back into custody and before Gee.
“He wrote a letter to you acknowledging he understands this is not something insignificant,” said Alsbergas.
Hickingbottom added that by sentencing him to concurrent sentences on several charges, Epp’s record would reflect a higher sentence.
“If there’s a further breach then, in all fairness, he’ll be knocking on a penitentiary door.”
Epp himself begged Gee for one more chance.
“I’m sorry. I can change,” he said. “I’m just asking for one last chance.”
Gee finally agreed with the joint submission, but warned Epp that any breach of his conditions and “all bets are off”.
Gee convicted him of two breaches of probation, obstructing police, theft of a vehicle and driving while disqualified.
Epp was released on his new community sentence, which meant he was to be outfitted immediately with an electronic ankle bracelet and in the monitoring system for the next eight months.
He was ordered to allow officials into his home to set it up and warned he has to answer the phone and the door to police or probation officers at all times.
He’s allowed to be out on Tuesday afternoons to get the necessities of life and can go to medical, legal and counselling appointments but he has to carry a letter of permission from his probation officer.
“And another life-time driving prohibition,” said the judge, “for what it’s worth.”
Gee ordered Epp to go straight home because his community sentence “starts immediately.”
Originally published in the Simcoe Reformer – February 7th 2020.