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Man given 3.5 years for role in 2022 beating and torture in Victoria

Douglas Hughes and four others had beaten, branded and burned Oliver Nicholson for drug debt
Douglas Wayne Hughes was sentenced to a 3.5-year jail term on Wednesday (June 5) for his role in the beating and torture of Oliver Nicholson at a Cool Aid supportive housing unit on Douglas Street. (Tom Eley/News Staff)

Douglas Wayne Hughes was sentenced on Wednesday (June 5) to a three-and-a-half year prison term for his role in the beating and torture of a man at a Cool Aid supportive housing unit on Douglas Street just over two years ago.

Oliver Nicholson was beaten, branded with a hot penny and set alight using lighter fluid by a group of five individuals on the night of April 2, 2022.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anita Chan pointed out the “cruel nature of the torture” in delivering her sentence.

“This conduct must be denounced,” Chan said. “A strong message must be sent that individuals must not resort to violence and assault to settle their differences.”

All five people accused for roles in the assault have now been given jail time for charges ranging from unlawful confinement to assault causing bodily harm.

Chan laid out the chain of events that led to the attack in her October 2023 conviction ruling.

On the evening of April 2, 2022, Chan said a man by the name of Alemayehu ‘Dante’ Townsend had concocted a plan to corner Nicholson over a drug debt. Townsend brought together Hughes, Hughes’ girlfriend Christine Berryman and a man named Ty McLaughlin to lure Nicholson to a room in the supportive housing unit in the former Tally Ho Motel.

Inside, the group punched and kicked Nicholson before duct-taping him to a chair with so much tape he could hardly breath.

They ripped open his shirt and branded him with a heated penny held at the end of a set of pliers.

After putting a hood over his head, they held up a speaker and blared loud music in his ears. They poured lighter fluid on his shoulder and set him on fire.

This was all because he owed $190 for opiates to Townsend, an 18-year-old who went by ‘Dante.’

Chan called Townsend (‘Dante’) the “mastermind” behind the premeditated attack. Townsend received four years in prison for this, while McLaughlin got three and Berryman got 23 months.

Another person, Alexander Formosa, had come onto the scene later and only received a one-year sentence.

Nicholson survived the attack and was able to testify in court during Hughes’ trial in 2023, but on April 9, 2024 he was killed in a stabbing in the 2900-block of Douglas, not far from where the beating happened at the Tally Ho almost exactly two years earlier.

Nicholson’s killing remains unsolved, and a spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department said they were unable to provide any update on the investigation on Wednesday.

Justification for Hughes’ sentence

Giving her reasoning for Hughes’ sentence, Chan noted many of the challenges he has had in his life, including mental health issues, sexual abuse and a car accident when he was 14.

Hughes, 43, is also part Indigenous, and Chan said that the difficulties facing Indigenous people in Canada must be taken into account.

But Chan also said Hughes has a long criminal history that includes 42 adult convictions, six of which were for violent offences.

Chan said Hughes’ sentence should be most similar to McLaughlin’s as neither man planned the attack. They had simply acted as “muscle” for Townsend. McLaughlin did not have a previous criminal record to take into account though.

Hughes sat in court wearing a red jumpsuit as Chan read out the sentence. His head hung almost below the banister of the prisoner’s dock as she announced he would be given three and a half years.

The courtroom gallery was empty except for Hughes’ parents.

His father Wayne, who says he has over 30 years of sobriety, has offered to take Hughes in after he gets out of jail and aid him in seeking substance abuse treatment.

“Drug addition treatment and counselling would be better than jail,” Wayne Hughes said outside the courtroom.

“He regrets what happened,” his mother Kimberly Romich added.

Hughes will also serve a year of probation after his jail term, and will have to meet conditions such as a lifetime firearms ban, DNA sampling and a ban on associating with his co-accused.

READ MORE: Trial begins for man accused of fatal stabbing outside Victoria’s Lucky Bar

About the Author: Mark Page

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