Dennis Minnings, 57, pleaded guilty Monday to stealing money from the donation box at Masjid Al-Iman mosque on Quadra Street on March 27, 2013, and breaking into the rectory at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Nelthorpe Street in April of the same year.
After participating in a six-month restorative justice program and performing more than 200 hours of community service work, Minnings was sentenced to 21 days of time served and six months’ probation.
Provincial court Judge Anthony Palmer said Minnings has made a sincere effort to change his life, despite his long history of break and enters.
Prosecutor Laura Ford told the court that after taking the file, she wondered if Minnings had any sense of the impact his crimes had. She learned that Minnings’ 30 years of offences were rooted in his substance-abuse problem.
Ford and Minnings' defence lawyer, Donald McKay, referred Minnings to the Restorative Justice Victoria team, which met with Minnings, the victims and police. They came up with an agreement that Minnings would do an hour of community service every weekday from April 30 to Oct. 30, 2014.
The program required him to talk to his mentor once a week, see his doctor once a month and take part in a methadone program.
Minnings volunteered at the Salvation Army and more than doubled his obligation to community service, said Ford. In the past 22 months, He committed no new offences and did not breach what was essentially house arrest, she said.
“It appears he has broken his crime cycle and may actually turn out to be one of those individuals who can take a leadership position in terms of working with other people who suffer from substance abuse,” said Ford.
It’s a success story that has taken everyone by surprise, said McKay. Minnings has volunteered at soup kitchens, helps the manager of his apartment building and plans to continue volunteering at the Salvation Army.
Conditions of his probation include 60 hours of community work to be completed by June 30 and no use of drugs or alcohol.
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