Yellowknife man vows to turn life around after 110 criminal convictions

Thomas Avery was sentenced to nine months in jail for a spree of break-ins this fall. They were the latest in 110 criminal convictions the 36-year-old has accumulated over the last 20 years.

'I will stop this,' says Thomas Avery, convicted of break-ins, thefts related to addictions

Thomas Avery has accumulated at least 110 convictions in the last 20 years. He appeared in court in Yellowknife on Thursday to be sentenced on his latest offences. (Walter Strong/CBC)

In a courtroom on Thursday, a Yellowknife man pleaded with the judge and the community not to give up hope on him.

"I will stop this," said Thomas Avery.

"I'm going to do it. I don't want people to give up on me. I don't want people to beat me up because of the things I've done."

I don't want people to give up on me.- Thomas Avery

Avery was being sentenced to nine months in jail for a spree of break-ins in September and October, including one into a Yellowknife home. They were in addition to 110 criminal convictions the 36-year-old has accumulated over the last 20 years.

The latest crimes, like all of Avery's previous ones, are break-ins and thefts and breaches of court orders related to his drug and alcohol addiction.

'These are not victimless crimes'

The spree began Sept. 26, four days after Avery finished serving his last jail sentence. He stole a cash box from the Super 8 motel. Two days later, he broke into a local restaurant and stole a box of wine.

Two days after that, he stole money from a dental clinic and also entered a family home. He left the home after being confronted by the husband, but not before pocketing an iPod and other electronics.

The spree ended a week later, when a school board worker arrived at her office to find Avery rifling through her desk.

"In the past, much has been made of the lack of violence on his record," said prosecutor Levi Karpa during Thursday's sentencing. "But these are not victimless crimes."

Karpa pointed to victim impact statements from the people who found Avery in their businesses and home, saying they're still shaken by the experience of finding a stranger there.​ Karpa pointed out they had no way of knowing that Avery is not violent.

Avery was raised in an alcoholic home in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, before moving to Yellowknife at the age of 10. He said he was smoking hashish and chewing snuff at the age of eight. By the age of 17, he was smoking crack cocaine and drinking heavily.

History of addictions

Karpa said Avery was sent to Nanaimo, B.C., for a residential drug treatment program. According to a report on his time there, he completed the first part of the program, but was also caught trying to purchase medication from other participants.

The people delivering the program urged him to stay in it, saying his chances of beating his addiction were bad if he didn't. He left anyway and was in trouble with the law again within four days.

Even Avery's lawyer, Leslie Moore, said he was at a loss to say what the future holds for Avery.

"Much has been done by the courts to try to assist Mr. Avery, including participating twice in wellness court," said Moore, referring to a court that's meant to help people whose criminal behaviour is the result of addiction.

Moore noted that Avery suffered a brain injury as a result of a severe assault outside a Yellowknife bar in 2007.

"Is his brain injury the reason he can't recover fully, or is it an excuse? That's a question I can't answer," he said.

With credit for the time he's already served, Avery has five months left on his sentence.