Hate was a factor in last October’s assault outside Tinseltown, Vancouver’s Downtown Community Court has heard.
However, Dustin Sciog, of Fort St John, and Michael Hostland, of Port Moody, both in their early 20s, have avoided jail time.
On April 21, Sciog admitted in his guilty plea to assault charges that hate or bias based on sexual orientation was a partial motivation in the gaybashing of Thomas Pope, Crown spokesperson Neil MacKenzie tells Xtra.
“It degenerated into a case of verbal insults and ultimately led to the assault charges,” MacKenzie says.
He says if hate motivation is admitted, it is taken into consideration by the judge.
“That was the basis the Crown proceeded on,” says MacKenzie, adding that “it’s not designated as a hate crime as such by the court.”
“It was certainly clear the accused had precipitated the offence by making homophobic statements,” he says.
Judge David Pendleton gave Sciog a suspended sentence of 12 months probation. Sciog must also pay a $50 victim surcharge, due April 30.
Judge Pendleton also imposed certain conditions on Sciog, including writing a letter of apology to Pope, performing 30 hours of community service and taking substance abuse counselling.
On April 5, charges against Michael Hostland in the case were stayed after he successfully completed an alternative measures program.
Taking the alternative measures route removed Hostland from the criminal process, so there is no conviction and therefore no hate crime designation. However, that route is only for accused people who take responsibility for their actions, MacKenzie told Xtra earlier.
The details of the alternative measures agreement cannot be released.
However, in cases where hate may be a factor, the case must be reviewed by regional Crown before proceeding to alternative measures.
If the Crown decides it’s in the public interest to take the alternative measures route then the charge is stayed, which means there is no sentencing and no hate crime designation.
The charges stem from last fall’s attack on Pope, who alleged he was repeatedly called a faggot and punched near the corner of Abbott and Pender streets.
Pope was waiting for friends outside the McDonald’s at Tinseltown when he alleged a man grabbed him by his shirt and started punching him in the face, while calling him a faggot.
The man then punched one of Pope’s friends in the face and knocked out his tooth after the friend tried to intervene, Pope alleged.
Pope says police arrived quickly on the scene and handcuffed two men but let them go.
MacKenzie says the court heard that Sciog approached Pope and made homophobic comments.
That led to the first altercation, MacKenzie says.
He says a friend of Pope’s then came out of a restaurant and threw pop on Sciog, who then assaulted him.
A bystander waiting at a bus stop then intervened.
“He got involved in an altercation with Mr Hostland,” MacKenzie says. “Obviously, it was a bit of a confused situation.”
Police said in a Nov 22 statement that they had asked the Crown to “assess the evidence that homophobic comments were allegedly made when determining if there is enough to support sentencing recommendations under hate-crime provisions.”
Queer activist Janine Fuller attended virtually all of the court appearances and never saw the accused.
“I saw their lawyers,” she says.
Fuller isn’t sure the Downtown Community Court is capable of providing the security the queer community needs in the face of hate-fuelled attacks.
She says it’s “another invisible process” that doesn’t give the community any assurances about its safety.
“If it is a hate crime, it should be processed as a hate crime,” Fuller contends, “and I’m not sure the community court is the venue to deal with that right now.
“Our community wants and needs more than that.”