May 20th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 20
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Out of a tent, into a cell, Lowe gets ten months for Subway assault
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Living in a tent, schizophrenic, addicted to crack cocaine, Crowsnest resident Kenneth Lowe was in a bad way long before he assaulted Coleman Subway manager Prabha Sharma for no apparent reason.
The Crown and defence factored in this history of mental illness, substance abuse and poverty at his trial May 12, in Pincher Creek Provincial Court.
Lowe, 44, pled guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 270-days in jail for for assault with a weapon, breach of probation, failure to attend court and breach of conditions for attacking Coleman Subway manager Prabha Sharma.
“For some unknown reason, while [Sharma] was behind the counter, Mr. Lowe entered the restaurant holding a section of lumber,” said Crown prosecutor Clayton Giles of the March 9 attack. “He came behind the counter where she was and struck her. He first hit her in the head and then she brought her arm up to defend herself and then he struck her again all without uttering a single word.”
Lowe fled the scene. When he was found, he was already wearing different clothing than the ones he was caught on camera committing the offence.
Sharma suffered a broken forearm. Her cast is coming off in June at which point she’ll undergo physical therapy.
“My arm is still in bad shape,” said Sharma. “Mentally I’m not ready to go back to work. I am still scared.”
While the previous owners did not let him into the Subway, Sharma said Lowe had been a regular visitor for the past two or three years.
“He used to come in and ask for coffee or cookies,” said Sharma. “We’d give them to him. We felt sorry for the guy.”
Lowe was credited with 96 days served, he’ll be on probation for a year and his DNA will be entered into a database.
He received an additional 4-months for assault and breaching probation for an incident that occurred Sept. 7, 2014 at the Husky gas station in Coleman where he took at a swing at an employee after being turned down while panhandling.
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“This is a significant jump in the kind of sentencing that Mr. Lowe has seen in the past but he has a history of violent behaviour, albeit somewhat minimal,” said Giles. “It goes back quite some ways.”
As he was videoed in from the Calgary Remand Centre, Giles related Lowe’s history of poverty, mental illness and drug abuse which has led to a depressingly long list of weapons, assault and other charges wracked up since 1989, the year he was convicted in Turner Valley for assault and possession of a weapon.
Later that year in Calgary he was convicted on two counts of assault with a weapon. In 1991 he was convicted for uttering threats, possession of a weapon and assault. In 1991, he was convicted for assault in Vancouver. In 1992, he was convicted for theft and breaking and entering. In 2001, back in Calgary, he was convicted for possession of a weapon, obstructing a police officer and assaulting a police officer. In 2002, he was convicted for assault in Victoria B.C. Later that year, he was convicted uttering threats in Chilliwack. In 2010, he was convicted for two counts of assault in Pincher Creek.
Then, the day before assaulting Sharma, Lowe entered the Esso gas station in Coleman where he was caught on camera with a concealed weapon; a length of lumber concealed up his sleeve.
“Many citizens of the Crowsnest Pass are aware of Mr. Lowe,” said Giles. “His behaviour is often erratic, he has borderline antisocial personality disorder, schizophrenia and poli-substance abuse issues. His behaviour is frightening. He constitutes a danger to society. His problems will not go away upon his release.”
Lowe receives treatment for his mental disorders but he appears to have been off his medication when he assaulted Sharma. He was also living in a tent during the period leading up to the assault.
“The fact that Mr. Lowe’s residence appears to have been in a tent, probably doesn’t assist in him making his [medical] appointments,” said Giles.
In their joint submission to the court, Giles and defence lawyer John Dziadyk agreed that Lowes mental health issues lessen his moral culpability.
“If it weren’t for those issues the Crown would be asking for a considerably longer period of incarceration,” said Giles who noted that one of Lowe’s constables said there are two different Lowes, the one who’s on his medication and the one who’s off his medication.
“Mr. Lowe has to recognize the need to keep himself on medication or he’ll keep getting longer and longer sentences,” said Dziadyk.
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Mental health professionals in the Pass were quick to point out that although the delusional thoughts and hallucinations of schizophrenia sometimes lead to violent behaviour, the vast majority of people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor a danger to others.
Robert Garnier, mental health therapist at the Community Mental Health Clinic in Blairmore and addictions counsellor with Alberta Health Services Loretta Schaufele, said that it is not uncommon for people to have concurrent mental health disorders. A concurrent disorder is a term used to describe when a person is dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse at the same time.
According to Garnier, substance abuse correlated with violence in communities and society in general and – based on a report by the National Institute of Mental Health – substance abuse significantly increases the rate of violence in people with schizophrenia but also in people who do not have a mental illness.
“The thing that causes the most violence in this community is alcohol and substance abuse,” said Garnier.
Citing a report by the The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (camh), Schaufele, said people with mental illness are over-represented in the criminal justice system. The report recognized the importance of dealing with the crossroads between criminal justice and social justice rights for concurrent populations.
“It is imperative that the criminalization of people with mental illness is addressed and that individuals receive the support, care and treatment that they need and to which they are entitled,” said The Mental Health and Criminal Justice Report.
The report states the criminalization of mental illness needs to be addressed so that people with mental illness can access the treatment and support they need to live their best lives.
It focuses on a social justice approach that advocates prevention, diversion and treatment/rehabilitation over incarceration.
“The intersection point of mental health and criminalization is multifaceted and when they collide, lives are affected,” said Schaufele.
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