Justin Shrum will serve an 18-month conditional sentence for allowing a small bonfire to spread out of control and destroy the Walton wharf.
In accepting a joint recommendation, Judge Claudine MacDonald ordered Shrum to serve two concurrent conditional sentences in the community. In addition to serving a three-tiered, 18-month sentence for the mischief charge that Shrum pleaded guilty to in relation to the burning of the Walton wharf, Shrum was also ordered to serve a 30-day conditional sentence for an unrelated assault charge.
Crown attorney Bill Fergusson told the court the recommended 18-month conditional sentence would be divided into six months of house arrest, six months on a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and a continued ban on non-prescription drug use and alcohol consumption in the last six months.
Fergusson said Shrum was drinking at the Walton pier with friends the night the wharf burned. He said Shurm left a small fire unattended and it eventually spread to the creosote-coated wharf, which went up in flames late in the eveningon Aug. 9, 2012.
Some locals informed police they saw, or heard, Shrum leaving the pier the night of the fire but, Fergusson said, the lesser charge of mischief was more appropriate than arson in this case as it is not clear if Shrum intended for the fire to spread to the wharf.
Considering Shrum’s criminal record, which includes convictions for driving while disqualified, impaired driving, breach of probation and mischief, Fergusson said Shrum is lucky his careless actions did not land him in jail this time.
Fergusson said the community was deeply upset by the burning of the wharf, and it’d be nice if some form of restitution could be paid. However, it was noted in court that Shrum is unable to do so.
He said Shrum’s behaviour has significantly improved since he was ordered to live with his sister in Centre Burlington while the mischief matter remained before the court, and he’s been adhering to strict release conditions that include a ban on alcohol consumption.
“Everything on his record is impaired related… and that says something,” noted Fergusson, who suggested Shrum undergo alcohol abuse counselling throughout his conditional sentence.
Shrum, who is from Walton, must continue living with his sister while serving the conditional sentences.
Regarding the assault charge, Fergusson asked that Shrum be forbidden from having any contact with the man he struck on the left arm with a stick in November 2011.
Fergusson noted that Shrum has now received probation and conditional sentences, and he’s likely to receive jail time if he is convicted of another offence.
Shrum’s defence lawyer, TimPeacock, told the judge Shrum understands the consequences of his “act of recklessness,” and he was the only one of four individuals present at the initial fire to take responsibility for the burning of the wharf.
The conditions outlined in the joint recommendation state that Shrum must keep the peace and be of good behaviour, attend mental health and alcohol abuse counselling and report to a supervisor while serving the conditional sentence.
MacDonald stressed that a conditional sentence is a term of imprisonment served within the community, and Shrum will be moved to the jail in Burnside if he does not follow the strict conditions allowing for his release from custody.
MacDonald said it cost $25,000 for local fire departments to extinguish the burning wharf, and $95,000 to clear away the charred remains of the wharf. While she commended Shrum for exhibiting a “remarkable change” in his lifestyle in the past 10 months, she advised him that he could very well wind up in jail if the good behaviour does not continue.
Shrum was originally arrested for arson, along with Kelsey Moore, of Hantsport, in relation to the wharf burning on Sept. 25, 2012. Shrum was 29 when the charge was laid, and Moore was 28.
Moore pleaded not guilty, and Fergusson dropped the charges against Moore in Windsor provincial court July 8, following the conclusion of Shrum’s case, saying the Crown did not have sufficient evidence to proceed.