Lane Peepchuk has been sentenced to five years in prison for assault with a weapon with a concurrent three years on a heroin and fentanyl trafficking charge.
In a joint submission this morning at provincial court in Smithers, the provincial and federal Crowns and defence submitted the five-year recommendation to Judge Jay Solomon, who presided via video.
In April 2018, police issued warrants for Peepchuk’s arrest for assaulting his girlfriend with a knife and a number of related charges including assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement and uttering threats.
On May 20, 2018, police caught up with Peepchuk when off-duty Terrace RCMP Staff Sgt. Michael Robinson spotted Mark Barg, another individual subject to arrest warrants, driving an SUV in Terrace. When members attempted to stop the vehicle, Barg fled, but was eventually slowed down by a spike strip and ultimately stopped by a pinning move and collision with a police vehicle.
Peepchuk, a passenger in the truck, attempted to flee on foot, but was tracked by a police dog and subdued by the dog’s handler Cpl. Jarrod Trickett after a short chase.
A search of a backpack Peepchuk was carrying yielded $1,900 cash, 24 grams of cocaine, 26 grams of methamphetamine, 4.7 grams of heroin and fentanyl, some drug trafficking paraphernalia and a media release of his outstanding warrants, according to sentencing submissions by federal prosecutor Mohammad Hajivandi.
A subsequent search of Peepchuk’s residence unearthed numerous firearms and other weapons including knives and a machete. Police laid additional charges for breach as Peepchuk was already subject to a lifetime firearms prohibition stemming from an old conviction in Smithers some years ago.
Declan Brennan representing the provincial Crown did not reiterate the sentencing submissions prosecutors made in January, but summarized the Crown’s position that based on case law and aggravating circumstances of the number of weapons seized, the fact the violence was in the context of an intimate relationship and Peepchuk’s lengthy violent criminal history, a five-year custodial sentence was well within the appropriate range.
Hajivani submitted a written submission arguing for three years concurrent on the fentanyl charge citing the crisis of fentanyl deaths as an aggravating factor.
Defence council Michael Murphy briefly spoke to the Gladue factors of Peepchuk’s personal circumstances calling his client a “very tragic figure.” Murphy noted Lakota heritage on Peepchuk’s mother’s side of the family saying she is a granddaughter of the legendary “Sitting Bull.”
The defence noted a childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse in which there was seldom food, but always alcohol and drugs in the home.
To escape that environment, Murphy said, Peepchuk ran away from home at the age of 11 and ended up living in the streets.
Peepchuk himself addressed the court apologizing to the victim and telling the judge in his own words about his background and his experience in custody over the past year during which, he said, he has been beaten up several times for refusing to join a gang.
He told the judge he was distressed that his mother, who is hospitalized with advanced Alzheimer’s could die while he is incarcerated.
He also said he has been working with a counsellor at Prince George Correctional Centre and expressed a desire to seek the intensive treatment he needs to address deep-seated psychological and substance abuse issues.
“I want to break this residential school cycle and be with my kids and live a normal, healthy life,” he said.
Judge Solomon referenced both a pre-sentence report and psychological assessment, which he said, were not favourable to Peepchuk. Nevertheless, the judge said that judging from Peepchuk’s submissions in court today, he had come a long way.
“It seems like he’s done a lot of work since then and he addressed the court in a very responsible and insightful way, I felt,” the judge said.
He also acknowledged Peepchuk’s Indigenous heritage.
“All the hallmarks of the Gladue factors are present in this particular case,” Solomon said. “He was the subject and witness of abuse, both physical and mental from a young age.”
Ultimately, the judge accepted the joint recommendation.
“This is a sentence being imposed in my view [that] is proportionate to the gravity of the offences and the degree of responsibility of this offender,” he said. “I have no hesitation in imposing the joint submission being sought today by experienced counsel.”
In total, Peepchuk pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on five assault-related charges, two drug charges and six counts of breach. The Crowns stayed another 13 charges.
The judge also imposed a mandatory lifetime firearms prohibition and issued a DNA order.