‘I’m just perplexed’: Judge questions why violent escapee was sent to minimum security Metchosin prison

'I'm just perplexed': Judge questions why violent escapee was sent to minimum security Metchosin prison
WatchA judge says he is

Thirty-year-old Zachary Armitage pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to escaping from Metchosin’s William Head prison in July.

During the sentencing hearing, Crown counsel noted Armitage has five prior escapes on his record as well as a lengthy and violent criminal record.

A massive search was launched July 8 for Armitage and another inmate, James Lee Busch, after police say they failed to show up for the head count at William Head the night before. Armitage’s lawyer told the court the tide was extremely low at the time and Armitage just walked off the property. He says it was not planned.

On the evening of July 9, an off-duty police officer noticed the pair when they approached him to chat about his dog while walking on the Songhees Walkway. Victoria Police were called in and the two were taken into custody.

In the same week the prisoners were on the run, Martin Payne, 60, was found murdered in his Metchosin home. Police have never announced a connection and Monday refused again to comment. They have said previously that they’ve identified “persons of interest” in the case.

During Monday’s sentencing, Crown noted Armitage did not use violence to make his escape from William head but also told the courts she has no information on what he was doing during his time at large.

Crown is calling for the maximum sentence of 16 to 24 months for the escape while defense is asking for just six to nine months. Armitage had been set for statutory release in August 2020.

The judge has reserved his decision saying he is “perplexed” and “bewildered” that someone with Armitage’s past would end up at William Head minimum security. He says an assessment done in 2018 showed Armitage was a medium-security risk but that decision was overridden and he was sent to minimum security instead.

He questioned if the system has failed Armitage or if Armitage has failed the system.

Crown will now request a report from Corrections Canada about why Armitage ended up at William Head despite being assessed as a medium-security risk.

When asked if he’d like to address the courts, Armitage, appearing via video, said he had been preparing for day parole at a Vancouver Island healing lodge and had registered for a mechanics course at Camosun College but after being in prison for more than ten years he was afraid of getting out and “screwing up”.

He said he was scared and made “a poor choice” and wishes he could take it back.

Court will reconvene October 17 to set a date for the sentencing to continue.

Armitage’s co-accused, James Lee Busch, is set to appear for sentencing on Thursday.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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