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Judge warns jail likely for North Vancouver hostel hostess Emily Yu

The judge had some strong words in the now infamous North Vancouver saga
North Vancouver RCMP members arrest Emily Yu at her former Central Lonsdale townhouse complex, Nov. 3, 2020.

The Crown is seeking three years of probation for Emily Yu, the hostess of an illegal North Vancouver hostel who was found guilty of disobeying a court order. But the judge hearing the case has indicated some jail time is likely coming.

In 2018, Yu’s strata won a years-long legal battle forcing her to shut down the backpackers hostel she was operating out of her Central Lonsdale townhouse. Yu, however, failed to pay the $52,100 in legal bills her strata had racked up, as she had been required to do, and the judge ordered the sale of the townhouse.

Yu was arrested in November, 2020 when a court sheriff and a real estate agent arrived to find padlocks and chains on the doors, with Yu refusing to allow them in.

During the trial, at which Yu represented herself, she insisted she was a victim of fraud and not subject to any court orders. She was found guilty in April of this year on one criminal charge of disobeying a court order.

At her sentencing hearing in North Vancouver provincial court Monday (Aug. 23), Crown prosecutor Lara Sarbit said a “short, sharp” jail sentence plus three years of probation including an order that she not return to anywhere near the townhouse complex would be appropriate. But, because of Yu’s time already held in custody after her arrest, no further jail time would be required.

Sarbit said her highest priority was to prevent Yu from causing any further disturbance for the new owners of the townhouse or Yu’s former neighbours. Also a consideration was Yu’s “apparently illogical thinking” on display through the trial, Sarbit said.

“It's a challenging situation in the Crown’s submission because it's clear, at least from everyone else's view, that Ms. Yu suffers from a mental health issue or personality issues that are in the way of her accepting responsibility for her actions,” she said. “It's unclear in the circumstances whether even a jail sentence would bring home to her the reality of the fact that she does not own this townhouse anymore and does not have any rights to it.”

Yu was arrested again in April 2021 after neighbours filmed her showing up outside the townhouse with a U-Haul and attempting to move her furniture back in. She was later charged with criminal mischief, although the Crown dropped that charge once Yu was found guilty of disobeying a court order.

Addressing the court, Yu pleaded with the judge that she not receive any sentence at all.

Yu said her son and daughter, despite not living with her, still need her daily care. She also helps friends in caring for their kids and elderly parents. Yu said she now has a job and is working to upgrade her education.

Yu attempted to persuade the judge that any punishment would not be in the public interest.

“I’m asking your honour not to sentence me, to not put me in jail because this too harsh on me,” she said. “I have done my best in contributing to my family and my friends and also to society.”

Yu said her behaviour should be attributed to a head injury received in a motor vehicle collision years earlier. She added that her legal troubles have led her to swear off alcohol, which was impairing her judgment.

But Yu declined to participate in a pre-sentence report and skipped the appointments that had been made for her to get an independent psychiatric assessment, which the courts use to help provide context and arrive at justice sentences.

“There is nothing about your mental health which I can say contributed to the offence or mitigates the sentence in the range I am considering,” Judge Joanne Challenger told Yu.

Challenger noted several inconsistencies in Yu’s submissions and said she was “not an accurate historian.”

Challenger also took exception to the Crown’s position that no further jail time be required.

“At the end of the day Ms. Sarbit, I am unable to accept that the penalty for this matter is community based,” she said.

The circumstances of Yu’s case are “crying out” for a sentence that sends a message of deterrence more broadly, she added.

“In principle, the very violation of a court order calls for a penalty that says to everyone in the society that court orders must be obeyed,” she said.

Challenger also left Yu with a warning ahead of her next court date, which comes in October.

“On the next occasion, when I impose sentence, I am suggesting strongly to you that you do not drive here,” she said.