This story has been updated to include more information from the afternoon proceedings.
A West Kelowna man accused of attempting to kill his mother entered an impromptu guilty to a lesser charge in BC Supreme Court on Tuesday morning (Jan. 26).
In the midst of the attempted murder trial which was set to continue throughout the week, 61-year-old Kevin Barrett surprised the court by entering a late guilty plea to the lesser charge he was facing of aggravated assault for severely beating his mother Eleanor Holmes and leaving her on the side of a forest service road outside West Kelowna in April 2019.
The Crown is seeking an eight-to-nine-year sentence, which defence lawyer Jordan Watt said was harsh, unreasonable and disproportionate to the offence committed. Watt is instead seeking a four-and-a-half-year sentence with a significant probationary term.
“This is a significant federal sentence,” Watt said, adding his suggestion takes into account Barrett’s struggles with bipolar disorder, his pleading guilty to the offence and the severe circumstances of correctional facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crown counsel Patricia O’Neal, while acknowledging the rougher-than-usual conditions in prisons due to the pandemic, argued COVID-19 has not made Barrett any less of a risk to the public.
“And it certainly has not made the victim, Ms. Holmes, any less terrified of Mr. Barrett,” she said, referencing Holmes’ victim impact statement read aloud in court earlier in the day.
Watt rebuked O’Neal’s earlier characterization of Barrett having a lengthy record of criminal violence as incorrect. Watt said Barrett has only three prior violent offences, the oldest of which dates back 26 years. Barrett’s criminal record largely consists of mischief and order breaches, Watt said.
Rejecting O’Neal’s suggestions that Barrett kidnapped or unlawfully confined Holmes, Watt said such actions were not included in nor supported by the agreed statement of facts submitted as sentencing began. Watt also said O’Neal’s case law — completed cases presented to the judge to help ensure sentences for similar crimes are comparable — largely focused on incidents in which the injuries were far greater than those Holmes suffered.
“We cannot speculate as to what may or could have happened to Ms. Holmes. We sentence Mr. Barrett for what in fact did happen,” he said.
In Watt’s submissions, he offered a look at Barrett’s background. He spoke of Barrett’s history with alcohol abuse and his early-childhood diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Frequently, Barrett would go off his medication, something Watt said is a result of long-standing stigmatizations of mental illness. Watt said Barrett’s medication often made him sick.
“He acknowledges that he has these issues and he acknowledges he has to continue to manage these issues,” Watt said.
Watt said Barrett’s bipolar disorder should not discount him from criminal responsibility for the incident but is a factor that needs to be discussed and weighed in terms of his sentence. He also said Barrett was likely suffering a manic episode on the night of the attack.
Whatever sentence B.C. Supreme Court Justice Steven Wilson chooses to impose, Barrett will receive 21-months credit for time already served.
Wilson is anticipated to come back with a sentencing decision on Friday (Jan. 29) at 10 a.m.
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