By Delon Shurtz on October 21, 2021.
Branden Myles Bellerose narrowly avoided a custodial sentence for fleeing from police when they tried to pull him over in a traffic stop last year.
The Crown recommended Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court that Bellerose receive a 90-day conditional sentence, which would keep him out of jail, but still require him to serve a custodial sentence in the community, typically under house arrest.
Duty counsel, however, convinced the judge to suspend the sentence and place Bellerose on probation for 15 months, during which he must be assessed and take counseling for substance abuse and psychological trauma.
Bellerose, who pleaded guilty to one count of flight from police, was driving a minivan about 6 p.m. Feb. 1, 2020 and had pulled out of a convenience store parking lot on 13 Street North. A police officer noted the licence plate attached to the vehicle was registered to a different vehicle, and had expired in April 2019.
The officer activated his emergency lights and siren as the minivan drove south along 13 Street. The driver refused to stop and during heavy traffic swerved into the opposing lane and around vehicles to avoid a red light at 5 Avenue. Bellerose continued to drive away and the officer stopped chasing him for public safety.
The following day police found the van on the city’s westside parked outside a residence on Jerry Potts Boulevard. It had a different licence plate attached, which was registered to someone else. The registered owner told police he sold the vehicle to Bellerose a week earlier, and showed the officer a bill of sale, which included the address for the residence on Jerry Potts Boulevard.
Although Bellerose was not home at the time, officers spoke to him a couple of days later and he admitted he fled from the officers because he was a suspended driver.
Crown Prosecutor Dawn Janecke told court a charge of flight from police typically attracts a jail sentence, but she suggested a conditional sentence would be appropriate given Bellerose’s efforts since the incident to change his life and rehabilitate himself.
Duty counsel lawyer Brett Carlson recommended a suspended sentence, however, and said Bellerose has been sober since August 2020, has received counseling every week and has never failed a urine test or breached any of his previous release conditions.
“That’s an enormous accomplishment for anyone,” Carlson said. “It may be relatively easy for someone to do for four to six weeks until the matter can get to court, but we’re talking about over a year that Mr. Bellerose has completely reformed his life.”
The accomplishment is even more significant, Carlson added, given Bellerose’s background.
Bellerose began drinking when he was only eight years old, and was using cocaine by the time he was 12. He grew up in poverty, was abused and “dislocated’ from his culture and family. Then in August of last year he decided to change.
“He doesn’t want this to be his life anymore; doesn’t want to be an addict.”
Carlson said Bellerose, who barely remembers the events of that day because he was so intoxicated, was “horrified” by his behaviour.
“He is well-aware that this could have resulted in a tremendous tragedy, and not necessarily to him.”
Carlson added the incident may actually be a blessing in disguise.
“This, in some ways, has been his salvation, because this opened his eyes to where he was going and what he was doing.”
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