Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'You are not that person now': judge

Court confident in thief's turnaround

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A man who went on a meth-fuelled crime spree in the summer and fall of 2003 and then fled to Alberta was sentenced to house arrest Friday after the judge was convinced he was a changed man.

Craig McCann, now 30, was given a sentence of two years less a day to be served at his home in Calgary after pleading guilty to several charges including robbery, theft and break and enter.

"Back then, Mr. McCann was in full criminal mode and definitely a threat to the community of Winnipeg," provincial court Judge Tim Preston said. "He went from being a crystal-meth addict and has rehabilitated himself."

Between August and September 2003, McCann was involved in a store break-in in Beausejour, the robbery of a Corydon Avenue 7-Eleven, break, enter and theft at several suites at a Kennedy Street apartment building that had been evacuated because of a fire, and the theft of a car.

The spree ended when McCann crashed the stolen car two days later following a high-speed police chase.

He was released on bail on condition he take counselling at the Behavioural Health Foundation in St. Norbert. However, he stayed there only for a month and then ran away to Calgary.

Defence counsel Danny Gunn told court McCann was addicted to crystal meth and he concluded he had to get out of Winnipeg -- away from the people he knew -- if he was going to clean up his act.

Gunn said McCann entered an intensive treatment program in Calgary and broke free of his addiction and turned his life around. He now has a steady job, is married and is expecting his first child.

McCann came to court with letters of reference from his employer and his wife's family. Several members of his family, who still live in Winnipeg, were in court with him.

"He's turned his life around," Gunn said of McCann. "Even though he did it the wrong way, he ended up (on a path) to benefit society."

Gunn said McCann wasn't hiding from the law while in Calgary. Calgary police picked him up 15 times on the outstanding warrant from Winnipeg but he was set free each time because the Winnipeg police declined to get him.

Gunn said Manitoba Public Insurance tracked him down in Calgary and garnisheed his wages for the past several years. He has repaid the auto insurer $19,000 for the damage to the stolen car.

Gunn said McCann was arrested by Calgary police in November for possessing a stolen licence plate and again detained on the outstanding warrant, but this time Winnipeg police went to Calgary and brought him back to face trial.

McCann spent 24 days in custody before being released on bail and returning to Calgary.

Crown prosecutor Deann Sahulka said she was impressed with McCann's determination to change his life, adding she supported a sentence of house arrest.

Preston commended McCann for turning his life around, pointing out he certainly would have been sent to jail had he stayed in Winnipeg 10 years ago.

McCann "has taken his potential and is making use of it," Preston said, adding McCann has to make amends for the 10-year-old crimes.

The house arrest comes with strict conditions, including no consumption of alcohol and drugs, and a daily night-time curfew, allowing McCann to keep his job.

"I have full confidence that you will not make any more foolish mistakes," Preston said. "You are not that person now. I wish you luck."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 B4

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