December 3, 2008

Article in the Belleville Intelligencer - Dec 4

Sinclair behind bars
Land developer gets four-month sentence, $690,000 in fines

The Belleville Intelligencer
By Jeremy Ashley
December 3, 2008

Jim Sinclair stood in stunned silence as handcuffs were placed on his wrists Tuesday.

The usually boisterous 67- year-old demolition man turned developer, was sentenced to four months in jail and handed a total of $690,000 in fines for tearing apart sensitive wetlands and allowing a "toxic witch's brew" of chemicals, including PCBs, to seep into the Bay of Quinte during his rogue attempt to redevelop the former Bakelite property.

Sinclair was taken into custody inside a city courtroom following a lengthy sentencing hearing on 14 environmental charges before Justice of the Peace John Doran.

"Rarely has this court ever seen an individual who has singlehandedly, with such a brazen attitude," caused so much environmental destruction, Doran said.

While ignoring warnings and court orders issued by authorities to stop work on the Dundas Street East property, Sinclair forged ahead, ripping up shorelines and wetlands and digging trenches, Doran recounted, reading from testimony from Sinclair's trials.

The actions were meant specifically to drain contaminants from the 75-acre site and into the Bay of Quinte, which would ultimately result in a more profitable piece of development land, Doran said.

"This penalty must deter not only Mr. Sinclair, but anyone ... who would take similar actions."

The sentence brings to close a case that has been before the courts for more than a year: Sinclair and his two companies -- Demolition & Recycling and Thermosets Limited -- were initially found guilty of the offences last February.

Sinclair has yet to complete any of the $230,000 in remedial work ordered as a result of a separate trial involving federal environmental charges at the site.

Crown prosecutor Gerry Herlihy said Sinclair "plowed ahead with plans to redevelop the entire site and began scraping off the sediments and marshlands right down to the bedrock," shortly after he obtained the property in 2003.

Sinclair shifted untold amounts of chemical-laden sediment around, created channels so toxins could drain into the Bay of Quinte and often accosted environmental authorities, Herlihy said.

The PCBs seeping into the waterway "were a result of deliberate, not negligent, actions," he said. "He is the engine who drives this entire story -- he decided what got done and when."

The punishment for such flagrant disregard required "not just jail for a day, not just jail on weekends, but jail for several months and fines in the six-figure range.

"You will rarely see a case with such outright defiance of governmental authorities ... this was an individual who was going to do things his own way."

Defence lawyer Gabrielle Kramer attempted to paint a softer image of her client, presenting several letters on Sinclair's behalf from friends in the Belleville area.

"He is honest, hardworking and capable of extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity," she said, adding he practises meditation, has been married for 40 years and is the father of two.

"There are some who would describe Mr. Sinclair as a charlatan ... that (characterization) is fuelled extensively by the press in the city of Belleville," Kramer charged.

"The Bay of Quinte is not a pristine place," argued the Toronto lawyer and it has a history of PCBs. In this case, there is no specific evidence of impact" on the bay, as a result of Sinclair's actions, she said.

"Mr. Sinclair was a one-man operation attempting to do his best in working to comply with a mountain of orders," issued by environmental authorities who "demonstrated a level of prosecutorial zeal" in targeting her client.

"Although Mr. Sinclair has been vilified by these proceedings ... the evidence shows only minor breaches and little or no effects" on the environment, she said.

But Doran was unmoved by the pleas for leniency and Sinclair was led from the court in handcuffs to immediately begin serving his jail time.

Sinclair seeks release from jail while conviction appealed

(also posted December 3)

Once again, Jim Sinclair will have his day in court.

Come Friday, the owner of the former Bakelite property — who was sentenced to a four-month jail term Tuesday and given $690,000 in fines for environmental infractions relating to the site — will appear in a Belleville courtroom to argue he should walk free while his conviction is appealed.

If granted, it is expected Sinclair would be released from custody immediately until his appeal could be heard by a local judge.

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