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Suspect guilty of robbing Courtenay liquor store, stabbing clerk

Dustin Perfitt’s lawyer wants determination on client’s mental state prior to sentencing
Dustin Perfitt has been found guilty in connection with a robbery and attack at a Courtenay liquor store. Image, RCMP

A Comox Valley man was convicted in Courtenay Supreme Court Thursday on counts of aggravated assault and robbery of a local liquor store.

Justice Barbara Norell gave her verdict Thursday afternoon following a decision earlier that day in which she decided a statement Dustin Perfitt made to police after his arrest was not made involuntarily. She said she was satisfied the Crown had proven all elements of the crimes.

Perfitt was facing charges in relation to stabbing a clerk and stealing cigarettes at the Mex Pub liquor store on Sept. 18, 2020. He was arrested a week later after police searched his apartment for evidence.

During a voir dire to determine the admissibility of evidence, a video was shown of the police interview with Perfitt after his arrest. His lawyer, Doug Marion, had challenged the voluntariness of an admission of guilt made during the interview.

Norell, however, cited various grounds on which cases of voluntariness of statements made to police could be challenged. She noted the accused had been able to sleep, been offered food and drink and was granted the chance to contact a lawyer.

“There were no inducements or threats,” she said. “There is no evidence of police trickery.”

Norell also noted police, though continuing to question Perfitt, did inform him of his right to remain silent.

“There’s no relentless pursuit of Mr. Perfitt,” she said.

While she pointed to gaps in some police video evidence, nothing she found brought the voluntariness of the statement into question.

“This was not made-up evidence,” she added.

There was also an audiotape of the initial search warrant being executed during which police found evidence, including a plastic bag containing a hoodie, also shown in a robbery video worn by the suspect. Marion had suggested his client found the bag with the hoodie, though Crown counsel Tim Morgan pointed out that Perfitt’s DNA was, along with the victim’s, was the only DNA on the clothing.

“There’s a compelling body of evidence,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Judge rules search warrant OK in robbery, assault at Courtenay liquor store

Earlier in the week, Justice Norell ruled on an initial voir dire in which the defence was challenging the grounds of the search warrant. While the judge found some gaps in the police’s video evidence, she ruled there were sufficient grounds for the issuing judge to grant the warrant.

After Norell ruled in favour of the Crown’s position in each voir dire, Marion conceded the case would likely end in a guilty verdict. The trial was held almost entirely in voir dire, with defence contesting both the warrant that led to the arrest and the accused’s statement following the arrest.

As far as sentencing, Marion pointed to statements of his client, concerns raised while Perfitt has been in a pre-trial correctional centre as well as the nature of the attack itself as reasons to make an application for a ruling of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD).

Morgan said he took no position on the defence’s application, and he has also asked for a pre-sentencing report and a forensic report looking into risk assessment. It is expected these could take a couple of months to produce. The next appearance for the matter is Jan. 4, tentatively to fix dates.

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