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Court rejects appeal in violent New Westminster home invasion

B.C.'s Court of Appeal has ruled the rights of a man whose abusive and disruptive behaviour led to his removal from court were not violated when sentence was passed in his absence.
A police investigator searches for evidence near a Queen's Park home after a violent home invasion in the 400 block of Queens Avenue in July 2016.

A man convicted in a New Westminster home invasion — in which the resident was brutally assaulted — has lost his appeal in court.

In the early morning hours of July 6, 2016, robbers entered a house in the 400 block of Queens Avenue through an unlocked back door, according to court documents. 

The victim, a Mr. Innis, was awoken by the intruders, who demanded his wallet, bank card and security code. Innis was attacked with a hammer and a knife in a prolonged assault. The intruders then fled, taking valuables from a number of different rooms throughout the house.

As a result, Stephen Smith and Victor James were charged with:

  • break and enter
  • robbery
  • aggravated assault
  • unlawful confinement
  • possession of stolen property

Smith was also charged with two additional counts of fraudulent use of a credit card. Both men were handed a 10-year prison sentence in 2019.

“There were bloodstains on the walls and floor throughout Mr. Innis's bedroom and adjoining bathroom,” Justice Paul Riley said in his sentencing, after a jury conviction on all charges. “There were footwear impressions from two different kinds of shoes, in blood, in both rooms.”

Innis suffered severe injuries, including a concussion, lacerations, bruises, broken ribs, and the loss of hearing in one ear.

James' appeal said his sentencing had proceeded in his absence and without a psychiatric assessment.

However, both the sentencing and appeal decisions note James’ defiant and abusive behaviour in court and his need to be removed.

“There is no basis in the evidence to conclude that the appellant was prejudiced by the sentencing proceeding in his absence,” Justice David Harris wrote for the unanimous three-justice panel. “He was represented by counsel. He is the author of his own problems because of his conduct.”

Riley said James was abusive throughout the proceedings, refusing to attend at times and shouting over lawyers at others.

With a file from Cornelia Naylor

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