Two men have been sentenced for the arson of a Kitimat home that caused lasting psychological effects on the family sleeping inside at the time.
Nickolas William Ferguson received three years in jail minus time served of 108 days, and Thomas Michael Finnie received a sentence of 30 months (2.5 years) in jail by Madam Justice Miriam Maisonville in Terrace Supreme Court October 20.
Both men had pleaded guilty at an earlier date to one count each of arson to inhabited property.
Ferguson declined Maisonville’s offer to address the court prior to sentencing, but Finnie stood up to say the events were life-changing.
“My lady, I’m remorseful for the part I played,” said Finnie.
“There’s nothing I can ever do to make it up to the family and the children for the psychological trauma they deal with,” said Finnie.
The circumstances leading up to the arson began with a separate fire hours earlier on April 12, 2014, when flames broke out at a Kechika St. residence in Kitimat belonging to a friend of Ferguson and Finnie.
The court heard Ferguson wanted retribution against the person he believed responsible. He and Finnie drove to one of their homes to retrieve a gas can and then went to the Shell station where Ferguson bought $10 worth of gas.
The two men then drove somewhere to talk about the Kechika fire and who they believed was responsible, court heard.
At 6:28 a.m., a fire started at a Bayer St. residence. An investigation later determined it originated near the outside of the garage, the source being a red plastic container and a petroleum liquid.
A woman and her two children were living above the garage while the main part of the house was being renovated.
They were all sleeping when the fire started and escaped with minor physical injuries, court heard.
The blaze damaged the entire home with heavy smoke damage and destroyed the garage.
For a year afterwards the family was forced to live in a trailer and later a rental property while their residence was being repaired.
Insurance covered most of the damage but they lost vehicles and irreplaceable items from the victim’s late mother and sister, court was told.
Since the fire, the victim has suffered from anxiety requiring medication and has frequent nightmares of a fire from which she and her children cannot escape. An existing medical condition of one of the children has also worsened, and both sleep with their parents to feel safe, court heard.
Maisonville said another consideration before deciding on the sentences was the harm to the community of Kitimat, which has limited resources to fight two fires in one day.
However, she noted Ferguson’s young age, the support of his family and the fact he was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the offence are also mitigating factors in sentencing. As part of his bail conditions, Ferguson was prohibited from entering Kitimat. Living in Terrace since his bail hearing, the court heard the hardship it caused to be cut off from his family.
Crown Sara Hopkins and defence lawyer Timothy Klaassen disagreed on whether Ferguson expressed remorse for the victims.
Regardless, Maisonville added it cannot be forgotten that the imperiled family survived, however it was only through good fortune that they escaped.
“I’m mindful other similar sentences have been far in excess of three years … but I am prepared to ascede to the three-year submission made by Crown council,” said Maisonville in sentencing Ferguson, adding she felt a three-year sentence would serve as better denunciation and deterrence for Ferguson.
Finnie had separated himself from negative influences he associated with at the time of the offence, had moved away, found employment and expressed deep remorse to the court, wishing he could do anything to right the wrongs he’d done, court heard.
Maisonville accepted that the fire served as a catalyst for Finnie’s new life and that the 30-month joint submission from Crown and defence was appropriate, but stated that if the court was not discouraged from setting aside a joint sentencing submission “it was very likely you would’ve got a three-year sentence” just as Ferguson had.