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Drunken arson nets 15 months jail, probation

A drunken young man who set his family’s former rental home ablaze last summer has been sentenced to another 15 months in jail.
Just before midnight on July 21, 2012, Joshua Aaron Gauley, now 21, went to the St. Amand Road rental home his father, wife and children had just moved out of, after the landlord threatened eviction, and lit the carport and two nearby vehicles on fire.
“It’s hard to say exactly what the motivation was,” said defence lawyer Matthew Ford. “What we do know is that he was very intoxicated.”
However, he was not so drunk that he didn’t know what he was doing, said Judge Robin Smith during sentencing Monday.
“Why do I say that? Because there were three places where the fire was started,” said Smith.
Before starting the fires, the court heard, Gauley and a 14-year-old he met that night, got into a neighbour’s van and turned on the headlights to illuminate where they were going to set the fires.
“Now, that is a recipe for getting caught,” said Smith.
The court heard that one fire was set in the carport, another was lit by the rear wheel of Gauley’s unlicensed car, and a third was set near his father’s truck, which also did not have insurance.
The pops from the vehicle tires exploding caught the attention of neighbours and the fires ended up spreading to the house.
“The best estimate is that it did $300,000 worth of damage,” said Smith.
Gauley, the court heard, was in foster care for much of his toddlerhood and was kicked out of his mother’s home for substance abuse at age 15.
Shortly before the fires, he fathered a child and then moved from Alberta to Kelowna, living with a father he barely knew and his father’s family.
The family received a verbal eviction notice the month of the fire, and had moved out of the property a week prior to the fires.
And while Gauley’s “troubled, dysfunctional” childhood is a mitigating factor to consider in sentencing, Smith noted he needed to be careful to not give it too much weight.
Crown sought an 18 to 24 month jail sentence, plus a lengthy period or probation. Defence sought a sentence of two years less a day, to be served in the community, followed by two years of probation.
“I agree that a conditional sentence needs to seriously be considered,” said Smith. “I also believe, generally speaking, with this arson offence people generally go to jail, unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying a conditional sentence.”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Gauley, I don’t see those types of exceptional circumstances existing in this case.”
Also considered by the judge was Gauley’s inability to make reparations for the $300,000 in damage he and the youth cause.
Because of that, Smith felt that denunciation—a factor judges must consider in sentencing—was important.
Smith gave Gauley, who pleaded guilty to the arson in March, credit for six months for the time he has spent in custody since failing to appear at his trial for breaching conditions imposed following the arson arrest. Smith also imposed a further 15 months in jail.
Once the jail sentence is complete, Gauley will be on probation for two years. Conditions include not possessing or consuming alcohol or drugs, staying out of liquor primary establishments, and taking any counselling, assessments or programs his probation officer deems fit.
On the charge of breaching his curfew four days after his arrest, Gauley was given 21 days jail, to be served concurrently with his arson sentence.
By Cheryl Wierda, Capital News contributor
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