A man who attacked and robbed an elderly parishioner has been given a two-year conditional sentence.
Darcy Jones knocked 81-year-old Dr. Peter Collins to the ground and stole his wallet in the foyer of Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver on Aug. 1, 2007.
In his reasons for judgment, Provincial Court Judge William Kitchen said Jones deserved a conditional sentence in part because he had no history of violence.
"He has certainly not been a productive member of society," wrote Kitchen. "In fact, he has been pathetically inadequate, but his criminal record shows no history of violence."
The judge noted Jones has averaged one conviction a year for 30 years, but said they were minor offences, including theft and drug possession.
Jones, 43, said he's spent more than 20 years on the street, many of them as a crack addict, but after the robbery, he moved into a Christian transition house and turned his life around.
"I feel terrible. It happened in a split second. It wasn't planned, it just happened and it's something I have to live with," Jones told CBC News.
Jones was released on bail two weeks after his arrest and was required to remain under house arrest at a transition house.
"I'm taking a course to get my grade 11. I want to work, fit in with society and get a girlfriend one day," said Jones.
Allan Amerlann, the executive director of Luke 15 House — where Jones has been staying — said Jones has become a regular at church and was preparing to be baptized at Easter.
"We've seen so much improvement in six months. He's one of our house managers. In fact, he welcomes the new guys and does the intake for us," said Amerlann.
Mugging caught by camera
The robbery was caught on video by a surveillance camera. Prior to the mugging, Collins had given Jones $5 a day for several days.
But on Aug. 1, a video surveillance camera caught Jones and Collins leaving the church together. As the elderly man pulled out his wallet to give Jones money, Jones pushed him to the ground.
Jones then grabbed Collins' wallet, took $40 and gave the wallet back to Collins as he lay on the ground.
Collins was not seriously injured. The next day, police picked up Jones a block from the cathedral and he admitted to the crime.