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"Death by cop" man freed after appeal

Wednesday 22 May 2019

"Death by cop" man freed after appeal

An ex-soldier with mental health problems has been freed from prison having served three months for taking a knife into a public place as a suicide attempt.

Simon Lorier, 37, was given five months in prison in March but an appeal in Guernsey's Royal Court yesterday found the sentence to be excessive and he was granted immediate release.

When Mr Lorier phoned Guernsey Police on 1 February to say there was a man in his house with a serated scuba knife - he himself was the man in question. Speaking later to Emergency Department staff who treated him for Taser and baton injuries sustained in his clos car park by police officers in response, Mr Lorier said he had wanted to lose his life in the incident; "death by cop".

As a result Mr Lorier was charged with taking a knife into a public place and was taken into custody before appearing in court. This drastic course of action was taken by Mr Lorier upon hearing the news earlier that day that his mental health needs were too complex to be dealt with immediately by the island's mental health services.

Support for his depression was something Mr Lorier had been trying to access on this occasion since November 2018, but the court heard he had suffered with depression for 15 years, appearing on a similarly motivated charge in 2013 for driving his car head on into a wall. 

At the time of the original sentencing, on 7 March, Judge Cherry McMillan called Mr Lorier's actions "wholly wrong and wholly dangerous" considering how "frightened" the police would have been who attended the scene. 

A successful appeal presented by Advocate Sam Steel yesterday at the Royal Court led to that original sentence being described as "manifestly excessive". It meant the man was released yesterday rather than being held until his prior release date which would have been 26 June. 

les Nicolles prison

Pictured: Les Nicolles Prison where Mr Lorier served his sentence. 

Three points were submitted on Mr Lorier's behalf by Advocate Steel in order to pass the threshold for reducing a current sentence; credit (lower sentence) for a guilty plea, motivation for the offence and the impact of a custodial sentence on his client's mental health. The "strongest" of these points, Judge McMahon summarised after a considerable deliberation, was the motivational aspect of the case. 

"Shortly after [Mr Lorier called the police] his wife called them to say he had a grudge against police. That was not true, she may have believed that at the time but it was not true, his actions disproved that.

"He did not brandish the knife, he did not approach the officers, he did nothing to put the officers in fear of him willingly. He did not fight back. This was accepted by the prosecution and two sentences were withdrawn. 

"He simply wanted to get the care he believed he needed," he said. 

The court also heard how Mr Lorier was not able to receive suitable mental health support he needed while in prison having no access to his usual practitioner while serving his sentence.

"While in prison he was diagnosed with a personality disorder, he was given one sheet of information from the Guernsey Mind website," said Advocate Steel. 

Judge McMahon said the Jurats had considered Judge McMillan's sentence fair considering the maximum sentence available could have been 12 months in prison and the several aggravating factors including the consumption of alcohol before the offence and the similar offence in 2013. 

"The social inquiry asked for a suspended sentence. It is quite clear that [Judge McMillan] entered into a balancing exercise. The court feels the personal mitigation allowed was outside the range for this particular offender, four months would've been more appropriate," he said. 


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