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 and awaits sentencing in Mountain Institution. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

Judge ‘bewildered’ that escaped Vancouver Island inmate was in a minimum security prison

Zachary Armitage, 30, pleaded guilty to escape from lawful custody and awaits sentencing

The judge sentencing one of two inmates who escaped from a Metchosin prison over the summer said he was “bewildered” as to what the man – who has a number of other escapes on his record – was doing in a minimum security environment.

Zachary Armitage, 30, appeared by video in the Western Communities Court on Monday, wearing a blue jumpsuit and sitting in a small room at Mountain Institution, a medium security prison in the Fraser Valley. He plead guilty to escape from lawful custody. He is currently serving a sentence of 13 years and 10 months for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

RELATED: Langford mayor left with questions nearly two months after Metchosin prison escape

Armitage escaped from William Head Institution with fellow inmate James Busch on the evening of July 7, 2019. The two were present for the prison’s 7 p.m. head count, and were discovered missing at 11 p.m. According to submissions from Armitage’s defence attorney, the pair noted that the tide was low that night and made a ‘spontaneous decision’ to escape.

After a search of the property, police were called and helicopters and K9 units were deployed to find the missing prisoners. But the pair wasn’t found for two days. They were re-captured in Esquimalt after commenting on the size of a dog near the Songhees Walkway on the evening of July 9, unknowingly alerting its owner – an off-duty RCMP officer – to their location. The officer called 9-1-1 and the pair were arrested by the Victoria Police Department. Armitage has been in custody at Mountain Institution ever since.

RELATED: Escaped William Head inmates recognized after commenting on off-duty RCMP officer’s dog

“Crown has no information at this time as to what Mr. Armitage and the other prisoner were doing during the time they were at large,” said Crown lawyer Susan Rupertus.

Armitage, who has been in prison for the majority of his life, has six escapes on his record, Rupertus told the court room. He escaped twice as a youth, two more times in 2008, and in 2016 walked away from a healing house in the B.C. Interior.

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.

“I’m perplexed how someone with Mr. Armitage’s background and unlawful escapes still ended up in William Head,” said Judge Roger Cutler. “I’m bewildered that he was in this position. It begs the question, has the system failed him or has he failed the system?”

“Everything I’ve read about him, I’m not sure anyone would be surprised that he walked away,” Cutler added.

RELATED: Metchosin working with William Head to improve communication after prison break

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

Armitage himself told the judge that he had good things lined up but “had this fear of getting out and screwing up.”

“When I think about getting out, I get scared,” he said. “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.”

The judge did not make a sentencing decision Monday, instead requesting additional information about the override recommendation that put Armitage in the low-security prison.

Escape from lawful custody carries a maximum sentence of 24 months. The judge can decide the sentence is served concurrently or consecutively.

A sentencing date will be fixed on Oct. 17.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER: Don’t penalize Langley kids for showing ingenuity and passion

We don’t want our youngsters to grow up being couch potatoes, encourage them getting outdoors

Giants hope to be back playing by early December

A Langley-based major hockey team hopes to be back on the ice competing before year end

COVID concerns cancel informal Langley car show

RCMP said the gathering exceeded the limits of the provincial health order

Family struggles in aftermath of recent fire at Langley City condo

Overwhelming support from family, friends and complete strangers is helping young family

Langley cannabis business hopes for boutique success

Start small and grow is the aim of Glen Valley Cannabis

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Wrong-way driver triggers multi-vehicle collision on Highway 99 in South Surrey

Police received multiple reports of vehicle heading north in southbound lanes

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Mischief and break-and-enter charges laid for incidents on four separate days prior to the protest

Most Read