Scales of justice
Mental health in question as man tells of sleeping in outhouse
A Charlottetown man who used a sledgehammer to break into a house and steal food after he had been sleeping in an outhouse while absent from the Hillsborough Hospital will be spending time in jail.
John Darryl Gunning, 42, appeared before Judge Nancy Orr in provincial court in Charlottetown Wednesday for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to several charges, including breaking into several buildings and stealing a vehicle.
Orr sentenced Gunning, who had been in custody for 79 days, to an additional 67 days in jail after giving him credit for the time he already served.
Gunning had previously been scheduled for sentencing, but when he exhibited suicidal behaviour he was sent to Halifax for an assessment where it was determined he was fit to stand trial.
The court heard Gunning was missing from the Hillsborough Hospital in May when he stole a van that had the keys left in it and used it to steal candy from the Brackley Drive-in Theatre.
He later stole a second vehicle from the same home before police caught him.
In September, Gunning used a sledgehammer to smash the doorknob off a house where he ate ice cream, chips and had some non-alcoholic drinks.
The homeowner came home while he was still inside and called the police.
Gunning told the police he had been sleeping in an outhouse next to the Confederation Trail and had been homeless since leaving the Hillsborough Hospital a second time.
The Crown and defence lawyers had concerns about his mental health before his previous scheduled court date for sentencing and he was sent to Halifax for the assessment.
Crown attorney Jeff MacDonald said Gunning’s crimes were serious and the victim of the home invasion has left her house out of fear.
Gunning’s lawyer, Clare Henderson, said her client spent two months at Hillsborough Hospital and another month in Prince County Hospital’s psychiatric ward.
She said Gunning has been working to find an appropriate place to live.
Before handing down a sentence, Orr said the psychiatric assessment was useful, but while Gunning certainly had mental health issues, he told several people he had bi-polar disorder, which was inconsistent with reports on him.
Lots of people offered him help, Orr said, but he was unwilling to take it.
In addressing Gunning’s offences, Orr said it was fortunate the homeowner showed good judgment and called the police before she went inside.
“It could have been a very serious or very dangerous situation,” she said.
Orr said she was satisfied Gunning clearly knew what he was doing, he understood it was wrong and knew there would be consequences.
Along with the jail time, Gunning will be on probation for three years after his release and is banned from driving during that period.
Orr also ordered him to write apology letters to the victims and pay $705.18 to the homeowner.