Judge offers insights into Nunavut jail riot

Details unveiled during sentencing of Igloolik murderer

By STEVE DUCHARME

A written court decision sheds light on an inmate riot that occurred at Baffin Correctional Centre late last year. (FILE PHOTO)


A written court decision sheds light on an inmate riot that occurred at Baffin Correctional Centre late last year. (FILE PHOTO)

During a riot at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit late last year, four inmates broke through the jail’s ceiling and caused a flood after breaking an overhead fire sprinkler.

These previously unreleased details are included in a written decision addressing offences committed by one of the rioters, who was also given a life sentence for a separate murder conviction.

Steven Akittirq, 27, was sentenced to life in jail without parole for 14 years stemming from the brutal murder of a teenage girl in Igloolik in 2014, as reported by Nunatsiaq News during the Igloolik circuit court this January.

But the written version of that sentence, published on April 16, included additional information on other offences committed by Akittirq while in custody, including two mischief charges related to a riot at the BCC last September and another incident in the cells of the Nunavut Court of Justice.

According to Justice Susan Cooper, four inmates at the BCC, including Akittirq, broke through the ceiling of their jail cell during a six-hour standoff with guards on Sept. 25, 2017.

The riot began after Akittirq and another inmate ran out of their cell while being served beverages, resulting in his cell unit being given reduced leisure time as punishment.

“The inmates became upset and started banging on doors and walls and covering up cameras and windows so they could not be seen,” Cooper said. This ultimately provided the cover for Akittirq and other inmates to break through the cell ceiling.

Akittirq and the other inmates damaged light fixtures in six other cells within the jail wing as they moved through the ceiling, while also causing a flood after breaking an overhead fire sprinkler.

The incident caused the jail’s other inmates to be evacuated to the jail gym.

After the inmates came out of the ceiling and surrendered, they were moved to separate cells at the Nunavut Court of Justice.

“The inmates became upset over the lack of coffee or tea with their snack,” Cooper said, and “started banging on their cells and yelling at the correctional officers.”

The inmates also clogged toilets with toilet paper, causing additional flooding at the courthouse.

The damage at the BCC is estimated to have exceeded $5,000, while no estimate was provided for the damage at the courthouse.

Cooper sentenced Akittirq to a combined nine months of jail for the two mischief charges related to the riots, which Akittirq pleaded guilty to.

That sentence, along with two additional six-month sentences for assault charges, will be served concurrently with Akittirq’s life sentence for second-degree murder, without possibility of parole for 14 years.

Akittirq murdered Glenna Attagutalukutuk, his 17-year-old cousin, on the night of her high school prom.

According to agreed-upon facts, Attagutalukutuk died from a gunshot wound after travelling with Akittirq to a cabin outside Igloolik on June 8, 2014.

Attagutalukutuk was also stabbed, and evidence collected from her body by investigators indicated that she and Akittirq had engaged in sex.

Akittirq pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder charge last October.

Cooper said “it is difficult to understand who Steven [Akittirq] is,” but added that reports provided to the court say that Akittirq is dangerous, and that conclusion “is clearly supported by his history” of violence.

But Akkitirq is still “relatively young,” Cooper said, and not diagnosed with any form of mental illness.

“Prospects for some rehabilitation cannot be disregarded,” she said.

“When the time comes for Steven to be able to apply for parole, and if he chooses to apply, the parole board will be in a much better position than the court to make these determinations.”

R. v. Akittirq 2018 NUCJ 4 by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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