Police officers escort a handcuffed suspect to vehicle after a nearly nine-hour standoff on Main Street in Listowel.
(Crystal Kaiser/Special to the Beacon Herald)
As a judge was settling on the appropriate sentence for a 22-year-old Listowel man who went on a crime spree throughout the area involving stolen vehicles, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified, she wasn’t sure how to deal with an unusual request from the Crown.Due to the number of driving-related convictions on Nathan Chambers’ record – not to mention the fact he’s never even had a valid driver’s licence – assistant Crown attorney Andrew Paul asked Ontario Court Justice Katherine Neill to ban Chambers from sitting in the front seat of any vehicle – even the passenger’s seat – throughout the duration of a three-year probation order.A fairly common court order bars people convicted of certain crimes from occupying the driver’s seat during a defined period of time, but Paul felt that stipulation wasn’t strict enough.“That’s primarily because there’s such a large number of offences here, and it’s often hard to identify who’s the actual driver,” he said. “This will make things clear for the police.”Chambers was wearing a full-faced balaclava during one of the incidents he admitted to inside the Stratford courtroom. He also led police on a high-speed and lengthy chase from Gads Hill to Linwood, where he avoided spike belts and cruisers blocking the road while running red lights and stop signs.Defence lawyer Ben Scholten said he’s “never dealt” with that condition before and questioned the need to include it in his client’s three-year probation order.“But it kind of makes sense,” Neill interjected, pointing to the use of balaclavas during the one incident. “The only problem is: what if there is no backseat?”Paul simply responded that Chambers has lost “many privileges” and this should be one of them.After taking approximately 15 minutes to think about her decision, Neill came back and said the condition was “reasonable and necessary” since Chambers has multiple convictions for driving while disqualified – all while never owning a valid licence.The manager at the probation office in Stratford referred requests about the rarity of this condition to the Ministry of the Solicitor General. A spokesperson said via email the ministry does not publicly comment on individual cases.In addition to the probation order featuring the back-seat stipulation, Chambers was sentenced to 10.5 months behind bars, although he only has three months to go after credit for time served.He pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle, theft under $5,000, flight from police, dangerous driving, and multiple counts of driving while prohibited and failing to comply with bail conditions. One of the latter counts led to a lengthy standoff with police in Listowel in late February.email@example.com