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P.E.I. arsonist back in prison

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Parole board also imposed conditions when he gets out again

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A P.E.I. man who set fire to an apartment building while nine people were asleep inside it wound up back in prison recently after breaching conditions of his release. 

Dennis Joseph O’Brien was sentenced in 2016 to three years, 10 months and 15 days in prison for arson and breaching his probation.

He was given a statutory release in August 2018, but in a recent decision, the Parole Board of Canada revoked it, saying his level of risk to society had become high and was due to circumstances within his control.

Video played while the matter was originally before the court showed O’Brien going into a kitchen in the building and coming out of the room holding something that was on fire.

All of the building’s occupants escaped, but emergency responders had to drag a woman through heavy smoke to get her out.

The board’s report said O’Brien has shown an inconsistent lack of effort and motivation in programming and a negative attitude in general.

There was also evidence of drug use while O’Brien was in prison, and he was found in possession of four debt sheets in his cell in 2018. 

O’Brien spent about six months living in a halfway house in the community after his statutory release last year, but the board said he struggled with the special conditions imposed on him.

The board’s report listed several issues prior to the suspension of O’Brien’s release in February, including drug use and missed appointments with his mental-health team.

O’Brien was given several chances while out of custody before his release was finally revoked.

In its report, the board said there were positive developments during O’Brien’s release, such as maintaining his sobriety, but it couldn’t ignore the numerous times he disregarded the conditions imposed on him or didn’t engage in interventions in place to help him.

“The board believes your actions in misusing your medications, using drugs illicitly at various times, including with your recent suspension, and your overall inconsistent effort are indications that your risk was increasing.”

After reviewing O’Brien’s case, the board imposed conditions on his next statutory release, including that he not consume drugs or alcohol, he follow a treatment plan and he live in community residential facility.

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