Man who violently assaulted wife gets stronger punishment after sentence appealed

Joshua Schoo pleaded guilty to three counts of domestic violence involving his then-wife. He will now serve four months of house arrest after a conditional discharge from last summer was struck down on appeal. (Joshua Schoo/Facebook - image credit)
Joshua Schoo pleaded guilty to three counts of domestic violence involving his then-wife. He will now serve four months of house arrest after a conditional discharge from last summer was struck down on appeal. (Joshua Schoo/Facebook - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of intimate-partner violence.

A man from Gatineau, Que., who pleaded guilty to strangling, assaulting and threatening his wife has now been ordered to serve four months of house arrest after Quebec's Superior Court ruled a conditional discharge last summer wasn't punishment enough.

Last year, Joshua Schoo admitted to being violent during a dispute in March 2021 with his then-wife of 17 years, the mother of their four children. He pleaded guilty to three charges: strangling during the commission of an assault, uttering a threat to cause her death or bodily harm, and assault causing bodily harm.

Their children witnessed the assault, and one of them called police to say Schoo was hitting their mother and was intoxicated.

In July, Court of Québec Justice Serge Laurin granted Schoo a conditional discharge with conditions.

Laurin wrote in his decision that the altercation was an isolated event in the marriage and Schoo didn't have a criminal record, which the judge called mitigating factors. He also noted Schoo had begun therapy, stopped consuming alcohol and sincerely expressed remorse.

The Crown had asked for a six-month jail sentence and probation, but Laurin wrote that would jeopardize his maintenance job with the City of Ottawa and prevent him from traveling abroad with his children.

Instead, Laurin ordered a conditional discharge, three years of probation, and banned Schoo from contacting or approaching his former partner. Schoo was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and donate $5,000 to a community organization focused on counselling for men.

Laurin's decision was strongly denounced by various organizations helping women victims of domestic violence.

In August following media coverage, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions chose to appeal Laurin's decision seeking stronger punishment, arguing among other things that it did not fit the crime.

4 months of house arrest ordered

On Wednesday, more than seven months after the appeal was filed, Superior Court of Quebec Justice James L. Brunton struck down Laurin's sentencing decision and replaced it with four months of conditional imprisonment, a 28-month probation order and DNA submission order.

Schoo must stay at his home 24/7 from March 20 to June 20. He must then respect a curfew from June 21 to July 20. Exceptions include Schoo being allowed to attend religious services and a medical appointment.

Among other conditions, Schoo is prohibited from communicating with the victim, including on social media, and not go within 200 metres of her residence. He also can't consume alcohol or recreational drugs.

Schoo is also barred from possessing any kind of firearm or weapon for 10 years, and possessing any restricted or prohibited firearms and weapons for life, Brunton ruled.

Suffocated her with pillow, hand

At the time of the events, Schoo had just returned to the family home after an extramarital relationship of several months. He had also encouraged his spouse to have such a relationship, but when Schoo's wife told him she had met another man, he took it badly, according to the decision.

Schoo, who had started drinking earlier in the day, broke down the bedroom door where his ex-wife had taken refuge, suffocated her with a pillow and placed his hands on her face near her neck. One of their children called police and led officers to the bedroom, where the attack was still taking place.

It left the woman with extensive bruising on her upper arms and torso, and discolouration on her neck.

In her victim impact statement, the woman told court she has recurrent flashbacks and distressing dreams of the event and worries about her children.

"I fear for my children's emotional security the most. After witnessing those traumatic things, I question how the outcome will affect their own choices, relationships and responses," her statement to court said.

"Our children look to us as parents for safety and love and security and he failed them."

Support is available for anyone affected by intimate partner violence. You can access support services and local resources in Canada by visiting this website.

If your situation is urgent, please contact emergency services in your area.