Zachary Armitage, 30, is one of two William Head Institution inmates who escaped from the prison in July. He has plead guilty to escape from lawful custody. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

Escaped Metchosin inmate sentenced to additional year tacked on to 14-year sentence

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One of the men who escaped from William Head Institution this summer will spend another year behind bars in addition to his current sentence.

Zachary Armitage, 30, was serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for a violent robbery, aggravated assault and other offences when he and another inmate escaped from the low-security institution.

He appeared in Western Communities Courthouse Monday by video, waiting by the only window in the small room before sitting down in a chair placed in the middle of the screen.

Armitage and fellow inmate, James Busch, noticed the tide was low on the night of July 7 and made a ‘spontaneous decision’ to escape by walking along the shoreline, according to submissions from Armitage’s defence attorney. The two were present for the prison’s 7 p.m. head count, but were discovered missing four hours later.

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The pair evaded capture for two days. They were located in Esquimalt after commenting on the size of a dog on the evening of July 9, unknowingly alerting its owner — an off-duty RCMP officer — to their location. Armitage has been in custody at Mountain Institution ever since.

With known gang affiliations, illicit drug use and a conviction on a violent crime, a Corrections Service Canada analysis had deemed Armitage fit for a medium security institution, but an override was recommended and Armitage was moved to the West Shore minimum security prison in April, 2018.

On Sept. 30 he appeared in court and the judge stopped proceedings, requesting additional information about the override recommendation that put him in low-security prison.

Armitage, who has been in prison for the majority of his life, has six escapes on his record. On Monday the judge told the courts the sentence needed to be long enough to discourage Armitage from attempting to escape again, but also to deter other inmates who may be contemplating an escape. The courts heard that an internal report from Corrections Canada had noted Armitage’s positive efforts in rehabilitation, along with the opinion that he was low escape risk and had been working on a long-term integration plan.

The judge emphasized this was not a prison breach with violence and had not been a planned escape. Aggravating factors of the case included Armitage’s lengthy history in custody for violent crimes coupled with numerous escape attempts. An early guilty plea, along with Armitage’s Indigenous identity and a history of transient housing and family violence were noted as minimizing factors. The courts heard that Armitage was 12 when he turned to substances and had been involved with the law from that time.

RELATED: Judge ‘bewildered’ that escaped Metchosin inmate was in a minimum security prison

Armitage has been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder stated the judge, noting that he acts younger than his age.

Crown has not asserted any crimes were committed while the pair were out of custody, but it was noted that Armitage was found with drug paraphernalia at the time of his arrest.

Armitage’s defence attorney, Roberto Alberto, said his client was up for parole in September and felt the pressure of his potential release.

“It’s difficult for all of us to understand why someone would make a decision with a parole hearing coming up so soon, but you’ve got to understand this is a person who’s been in jail for a long, long time and what goes through their mind is something we may not be able to understand fully,” said Alberto outside the courtroom on Monday. “He made a spontaneous bad decision.”

Armitage himself told the judge that he had good things lined up but “had this fear of getting out and screwing up,” at his hearing in September.

“When I think about getting out, I get scared,” he said the time. “Even now, my hands are all clammy. I don’t know, man. … Now I wish I could take it back. I could be out right now. But now I’m here. I’m not the person you read in the paper anymore. I’ve worked really hard to change that.”

Armitage will spend another seven years in custody at the Mountain Institute, depending on parole.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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