A man who beat his six-year-old son with an electrical cord because he wasn’t eating his toast fast enough avoided a jail sentence Wednesday when a Windsor judge said the father was a changed man, loved by his wife and children.
“This is one of those rarest and exceptional cases,” Ontario court Justice Sharman Bondy said in a lengthy written ruling. A pre-sentence report, she said, was “positive, encouraging, might I say — exemplary” in describing the father of four young children.
Standing in the courtroom in a black suit, the 27-year-old father, who cannot be named under a publication ban issued by the court to protect the identity of his children, was handed a conditional discharge and placed on 36 months probation. He was ordered to continue with the anger management, parenting and other counselling he has been receiving. “Access to his children is still restricted,” said defence lawyer Patricia Brown.
Having escaped a criminal conviction, the man, a foreign national who came to Canada from Jamaica as an infant, improves his chances of not being kicked out of the country.
“He was facing a removal order. Had he been convicted, he would have been detained today for removal,” Brown told reporters after the ruling.
A teacher noticed a horseshoe-shaped welt on the son’s arm in late 2015, and after the Children’s Aid Society was brought in, the boy spoke of other beatings, and another brother, two years older, said the father also beat him. Investigators discovered that a USB charger cord had been used to physically discipline the child, who displayed welts on his chest, back and arms.
As part of a deal with the prosecution that saw the father plead guilty last July to a single count of assault with a weapon, two other charges were withdrawn. The Crown had been seeking a 30-day jail term followed by 24 months probation.
The judge made reference to the “serious consequences if convicted” of a crime, but she said the threat of the man’s removal from Canada wasn’t a consideration in her sentencing. Listing the anger management, parenting and other counselling and treatment the man has been receiving from the Children’s Aid Society, Canadian Mental Health Association and Hiatus House, Bondy said his post-offence rehabilitation efforts were “nothing short of remarkable and commendable.” She cited a court document describing him as “a good and loving father” with a wife who described their relationship as “healthy and mutually supportive.”
Bondy said a conditional discharge was in the best interests of the offender — who expressed remorse for assaulting the child — as well as, “more importantly, the public.” The judge said her sentence still provided the public with the message that corporal punishment is no alternative to “loving parenting.” She said the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the physical disciplining of children is acceptable “in very exceptional circumstances … but never with the use of objects.”
The man had spent five days in pre-sentence custody, but that was related to his immigration issues. The court heard that it wasn’t until after he turned 18 that the man discovered he did not have Canadian citizenship and that he is now seeking to remain in Canada on compassionate grounds. His wife, a Canadian citizen who accompanied the offender to the sentencing, told the court she and her children would be “devastated” if left on their own.
The father has moved on from supervised access to his children to monitored visits. One of his probation conditions is to not associate with the children unless permitted by the Children’s Aid Society or as directed by a court or child protection order. A lawyer appointed to serve in the children’s interests is “supportive” of such interaction, the court heard.
A report on the offender, portions of which were read out by the judge, described the man as having a limited educational and work history and having suffered a “traumatic” childhood with an abusive stepfather. Suffering from depression and anxiety, he is receiving medical treatment and benefitting, according to Bondy, from a “positive support system.”
The offender was ordered to submit a blood sample for a police DNA databank. During his three-year probation, he’s to abstain from drugs and alcohol and is prohibited from possessing weapons. “That can include a USB power cord used for punishment,” said Bondy.
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