Yellowknife

Man who punched taxi driver and bit bylaw officer avoids jail


A man off his medication who punched a taxi driver several times, kneed an RCMP officer, and both spat on and bit a bylaw officer – all in a drunken rage – avoided jail largely due to his medical condition.

Christopher David Archibald, 44, came to Yellowknife from Abbotsford, BC, for work. He is bipolar and was out of medication for his condition when he tried to hail a cab in front of The Raven Pub at 2:10am on August 12, 2018, a court heard on Thursday.

In an agreed statement of facts, the court heard Archibald was intoxicated when he approached a cab outside the bar. When the driver refused to take him, he punched the man several times through the open window.

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The assault was witnessed by a municipal enforcement officer who happened to be nearby. When the officer intervened, Archibald resisted, bit his finger, and spat at him two times. Archibald was pepper-sprayed yet continued to resist being handcuffed despite being on the ground, with his face bloodied from a scrape to his head.

A second bylaw patrol arrived and assisted the first officer. RCMP had been called and Archibald continued to put up a fight, kneeing a Mountie as he was being detained.

“I must say, Mr Archibald, when an accused comes before me after assaulting a cab driver and two police officers, there is usually substantial jail time associated with that,” said Territorial Court Judge Garth Malakoe during a sentencing hearing.

“Cab drivers [work] in Yellowknife at night by themselves and they are vulnerable. Police officers are doing their duty, doing what they are paid to do, protecting us. And here you are, assaulting them.

“Cab drivers in Yellowknife have been assaulted before – unfortunately we have had a death of a cab driver as the result. I have sentenced people like yourself … to periods of imprisonment.”

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Malakoe said his role is ultimately to protect the public, but he did accept the joint sentencing submission for a conditional discharge.

“[The Crown and defence] say because you suffer from this medical affliction, the best way of handling this is to have you treated – make sure you are treated – because in doing so, you will not cause any more trouble,” he said.

“That’s not an unreasonable approach. Joint submissions should not be rejected lightly.”

Must find a doctor

Archibald avoided trial by pleading guilty to assault and assaulting a peace officer. Other, lesser charges were dropped.

Malakoe told Archibald he must respect the one-year probation order he is now under, during which he can’t drink or take illegal drugs and must prove he has found a doctor here who is willing to treat him.

He also must not contact or communicate with the cab driver, or the peace officers involved in the incident – unless the latter are performing their official duties.

If he violates the order, he will breach his conditional discharge and also be in violation of his probation order.

Taxi cabs wait for fares outside of The Raven Pub on a Saturday night

Taxi cabs wait for fares outside of The Raven Pub on a Saturday night. James O’Connor/Cabin Radio

“You can’t prioritize your work or your private life over the probation order,” said Malakoe. “You can’t decide to go to The Raven on a Saturday night for a few drinks.”

Archibald told the court he came to Yellowknife both to work – he was fired after The Raven Pub incident – and in the hope of finding better medical care.

“There are better people here and the population is smaller. [In British Columbia] you’re just a number,” the skilled labourer and welder told the court.

Archibald, a father of three, is also on a conditional discharge and probation for a June mischief conviction earlier this year in BC.

Malakoe did not impose a victims-of-crime surcharge on Archibald, saying the man is not employed right now and it would impose an undue burden on him.

The victims-of-crime surcharge is now being imposed again after the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2018 found a mandatory charge to be “cruel and unusual punishment” against criminals who are poor. 

A newly enacted law requires a surcharge to be imposed for every offence for which an offender is sentenced – but now provides greater judicial discretion to depart from imposing the surcharge, according to a federal Department of Justice notice. It will only apply to crimes committed after July 21.

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