A Richmond, B.C., man with a history of intimate partner violence won't have to spend any time in jail following a recent conviction for beating his ex-wife in front of their young child.
G.M., whose identity is protected to preserve the privacy of his victim, was sentenced last month to three months of house arrest after a jury found him guilty of assault, according to reasons for sentence posted online Friday.
It says G.M. punched his ex-wife in the head, neck, shoulders and lower back, and knocked her head against some stairs on Sept. 16, 2019. The noise woke up their five-year-old daughter who witnessed the attack.
G.M. had also been charged with sexual assault for allegedly raping his ex-wife that night, but the jury found him not guilty of that charge.
The 43-year-old was also found guilty in 2011 of assaulting a previous partner, but because he received a conditional discharge, the conviction does not appear on his criminal record, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery noted.
G.M.'s defence team had argued for a conditional discharge in this case as well, but Gomery said it wouldn't be in the public interest to have him escape a criminal record yet again.
The judge said the previous assault charge and a 2014 peace bond related to the current victim, in place for a year, "should have prodded G.M. into self‑reflection and earlier efforts to govern himself."
Gomery said he was also concerned about the seriousness of the violence in this case.
"It was a sustained assault on his ex‑wife in her home while she was vulnerable, resulting in lasting injuries, and it was witnessed by his young daughter. The community would rightly regard such an assault as deserving of particular condemnation," the judge said.
However, Gomery wrote that time behind bars wasn't required in this case because G.M. has shown he is regretful, gone into counselling for alcohol abuse and proven he can abide by court-ordered conditions. The judge also noted that G.M. is a permanent resident and jail time could endanger his status in Canada.
The decision comes after a month that has seen a number of high-profile incidents of violence against women in Metro Vancouver, including three cases in the span of just six days in which men are accused of killing their wives or other female family members.
Legal experts and domestic violence advocates have also expressed concern in recent months over how the justice system treats spousal abusers, who are often given conditional or even absolute discharges for first offences.
'I am not sure that he is sorry'
According to the court decision, G.M. was staying on a couch in his ex-wife's townhouse after a night of drinking at the time of the assault.
He woke her up when he couldn't find his phone that night, feeling upset and "inclined to blame someone," Gomery said.
The two started arguing, and G.M. claims he assaulted her after she insulted his mother.
The ex-wife testified that the attack left her with bruising, pain in the head and neck, and dizziness. She now suffers from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and recurring nightmares.
G.M. has been the subject of a no-contact order since the assault and has not been allowed to see his two children, the decision says.
During a sentencing hearing, G.M. said he wanted to learn from his mistakes.
"He said that it has been traumatic being cut off from his daughters and that he is sorry for what happened. He said that he wants to be a better father, brother, and partner," Gomery said.
"I am doubtful that he has truly come to terms with his responsibility for assaulting [his ex-wife] I am not sure that he is sorry that he hurt her. I do think that he is entirely sincere in his wish to do better in the future."
G.M.'s three-month conditional sentence will be followed by 21 months of probation.
The terms of the sentence require that G.M. have no contact with his ex-wife or children, unless allowed under a court order.
He's also received a 10-year firearms ban and must pay restitution of $793.53 to cover his ex-wife's medication, as well as a $200 victim surcharge.