The aunt of a boy who was restrained, sexually abused and tortured by his father gave an emotional victim impact statement at the former Ottawa Mountie's sentencing hearing Wednesday.
"This has been an achingly long, gut-wrenching journey, but in the end a battered, courageous little boy with nothing but his will to live freed himself from your dungeon," the woman told the convicted man as he hung his head and avoided eye contact in Ontario Superior Court.
"An angel, not Satan, escaped from your hell. And the final, sad irony is that you ended up being the criminal you accused him of being," she concluded.
In November, the man — who was a Mountie suspended from the force with pay at the time — was found guilty of aggravated assault, sexual assault causing bodily harm, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
During the trial, he told court he had been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic depression and dissociative personality disorder as a result of sexual assaults he said he had endured. He said that he beat his son because he was experiencing flashbacks, and he felt "the devil lived" in his son, whom he described as being "morally wrong," volatile and defiant.
The man was fired by the RCMP on Dec. 11, three weeks after being found guilty.
His wife, the boy's adoptive mother, was found guilty of assault with a weapon and failing to provide the necessaries of life, and was given a three-year sentence.
The pair — as well as the aunt — cannot be named due to a publication ban that protects the boy's identity. He was 11 when his parents were arrested in February 2013.
Maternal side of family cut from boy's life, aunt says
The aunt, a sister of the boy's biological mother, told court Wednesday that their side of the family was cut out of the boy's life when he was about seven years old, several years before he managed to escape from the basement he was confined in.
Addressing the former Mountie directly, she asked if his abuse of the child was motivated by his hatred for the biological mother's relatives.
"We still cannot fathom what we might have said or done to undermine your ability to love, nurture and protect your child, a sad little boy whose life was completely devastated by the loss of his mother, his family and his world," she said.
She said the boy chose not to make his own victim impact statement "because he did not want to go through the anxiety again, to have to go back to that time.
"He just wants to be normal. He has had enough."
Professionals, police 'failed' the boy, aunt says
The woman said the boy must now learn to trust again after the family court system and police "failed him."
In December, not long after the former Mountie was found guilty, an Ottawa woman who had taken the boy in when he escaped once in 2011 came forward to express her guilt and anger that the boy was returned to his father.
"It makes me sickened to my stomach that this could have been prevented, and I include myself in this," the woman told CBC News. She also can't be identified in order to protect the boy's identity.
Ottawa police Supt. Don Sweet later said he reviewed the file from beginning to end.
"If hindsight was 20/20, could we have done anything differently? I don't think so," he said.
"Suffice to say, the officers, in conversation with the child, and more importantly, the father, witnessed what appeared to be returning [the boy] to a very loving home where the father embraced the child for upwards of 10 minutes and both were tearful," Sweet said.
"I'm confident that presented with what they were presented with at the time ... clearly this was returning a child to a situation that got aggravated to where we saw it 15 months later."
In court Wednesday, the woman questioned the actions of police and others involved in the case.
"We wonder if a simple apology from any of these professionals would have validated his pain and helped in his path to healing," she said.
"There are, of course, neat, logical rationalizations that justify all of these actions, but [the boy] is the one who has to live with the consequences of the irreparable mistakes that were made by professionals who did not see red flags, professionals who ultimately facilitated his isolation and enabled his father to act with impunity for so long.
"Individuals and institutions put in place to help him failed him, just as his father did."
Solitary confinement won't help, psychiatrist testifies
Dr. Helen Ward, a forensic psychiatrist who appeared in court as an expert witness, said Wednesday that the former Mountie exhibited traits of obsessive compulsive personality disorder, as well as chronic and severe PTSD, when she assessed him in 2013.
It was triggered by the depression that came with his feelings of being undervalued by the RCMP, she said, adding that it's not an excuse for his actions.
Ward also told court that solitary confinement wouldn't help his condition, but that, on the other hand, he may not respond well to group treatment given his narcissistic personality traits.
She told court she spoke to him before his answers to questions became increasingly self-serving and elaborate, and that he began justifying things to himself as the criminal process wore on — a symptom of his self-deluding tendencies.
PTSD unlikely trigger for abuse, psychiatrist says
A second, court-appointed forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Bradley Booth, testified Wednesday about his assessment of the former Mountie after he was convicted in November.
Booth said the man's obsessive-compulsive personality disorder has a larger role in the treatment of his son than his PTSD.
"[The child] not doing homework would not remind someone of the trauma they were under," Booth told the court, elaborating on how controlling behaviour and rule-setting were symptoms of the disorder.
Booth said the man showed narcissistic personality traits in their interactions, using the PTSD diagnosis he had from another psychiatrist to justify his actions and getting irritated when Booth presented contradictory facts.
"My impression was he didn't seem overwhelmingly remorseful for what had happened to his son," Booth said. "He wasn't tearful or down about that behaviour, but irritable and desperate for me to understand that behaviour."
'Half-starved, burned and battered'
While delivering his guilty verdict in November, Justice Robert Maranger said the video evidence was unequivocal and overwhelming, and he rejected the defence team's argument that the father was suffering from PTSD.
Last fall, the court was shown several videos from 2013, seized from the father's phone, of the boy naked, crying and restrained in the basement of his family's home.
The videos, made one month before the couple was arrested in February 2013, show the small boy breathing heavily and looking gaunt with his ribs sticking out. A man is heard repeatedly taunting and humiliating the boy, who was tied to the basement wall.
Onlookers inside the courtroom were seen wiping away tears and the last video left Maranger shielding his face.
"This was a very difficult trial. That a parent could do the things that were done to [the victim] was gut-wrenching," Maranger said in his decision.
"The viewer is left with images that are forever etched in the darkest, saddest recesses of that person's memory. That being said, however, the fact that this half-starved, burned and battered 11-year-old could somehow summon the strength to escape his cruel captivity and later seemingly rise above it, is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit."