COURTENAY, B.C. (CP) - A man who has fantasies of murder and cannibalism has been sentenced to two years in prison for a string of offences, including decapitating two cats, but also for crimes a judge believes he's likely to commit in the future.
Judge Keith Libby ruled that protection of the public was the most important consideration in sentencing Dwight Barnes. And in a move that invited the defence to appeal, Libby said the prison term reflected what Barnes might do in the future, rather than what he had done.
"I am prepared to sentence him for the crimes he may commit," Libby said Wednesday. "I'll give you your grounds for appeal now."
Barnes, 20, pleaded guilty in January to four counts: theft under $5,000, arson and two counts of killing an animal. The incidents all took place in August 2004.
Court heard that one psychiatric report concluded that Barnes was virtually certain to violently offend in the future.
Libby said the case was one of the most disturbing and frightening he's encountered in 25 years on the bench.
Documents presented in provincial court, including entries from Barnes's journal, an e-mail he sent to his uncle and an interview with the RCMP, showed he had fantasized about killing someone.
One journal entry, described by Libby as frightening, identified an apparent plan to kill two homeless people in Vancouver's Stanley Park, which was interrupted when someone else approached.
Defence lawyer Robert Yeo urged the judge to sentence Barnes for what he had done, not what he wrote in his journal about wanting to do.
"To the best of my knowledge, Parliament has yet to criminalize thought," Yeo said. "We need to sentence this gentleman for the crimes he has committed, not the crimes he may commit."
In a statement to police after his arrest for the fire, Barnes told police about his fantasies of killing people and the fear that had been holding him back.
"He sort of thought he was past that fear now that he'd killed the cats," Crown prosecutor Bob Richardson said.
Barnes, who grew up in an adopted home in Vancouver, moved to the Comox Valley last July with the support of his family. Court heard he was having some behaviour problems at home and was trying to live independently for the first time.
After Barnes was charged with forging cheques and killing the cats last August, he set several small fires inside a building that serves as a social club for adults with mental health problems.
Court heard that Barnes hid in the building after staff locked up at night, stole money from a cash box and lit several small fires in an effort to hide the theft. The fires caused about $75,000 worth of damage.