CORNER BROOK — A man already convicted of assaulting his spouse, and now guilty of smacking two children, has been sent to prison for four months for what he called his attempt to discipline the kids.
The 33-year-old man, identified only as Mr. H in order to protect the identity of the children, pleaded guilty to assaulting both his biological son, who is currently six years old, and his step-daughter, now 10, while the children were in his care between June 2008 and June 2010.
Both children are currently in the protective custody of Child, Youth and Family Services.
In an agreed statement of facts presented to Judge Wayne Gorman, the girl described being hit on the bum and stomach by Mr. H's open hand and being spat on. The boy described being hit and locked in his room.
Mr. H, in a statement he gave to police, acknowledged the he had smacked the boy "using excessive force" in an effort to get the boy, who had been throwing toys around the house, to behave.
Mr. H described the girl as being "out of control" and that he struck her on "the shoulder and on her bottom" when she angered him. There was no mention of spitting in Mr. H's statement, but he did admit that he "went too far and shouldn't have done it" when he used excessive force to hit his step-daughter.
Three years ago, Mr. H was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 12 months after he was convicted of assaulting his spouse.
Crown attorney Trina Simms asked Gorman to sentence Mr. H to 16 months in prison, followed by probation. In her argument, Simms referred to the vulnerability of the victims and the need to protect children from this sort of abuse.
Sandi MacKinnon, the lawyer who defended Mr. H, asked for either a suspended sentence with probation or two to three months of house arrest. MacKinnon's argument rested on Mr. H's guilty pleas, the lack of physical injuries to the children and the fact Mr. H no longer has contact with the two children.
Gorman ruled the range of sentence proposed by the Crown was not in line with the range set by precedent cases involving similar circumstances of child abuse. He said the range for the assaults committed by Mr. H may generally extend from a suspended sentence to eight months for each assault.
The offences Mr. H committed were not as serious as those that have warranted a three-month sentence in the past, but were more serious than those that resulted in suspended sentences.
An aggravating factor Gorman had to consider was the position of authority and trust Mr. H was in when he assaulted the kids.
The judge decided to give Mr. H two months for each assault and for both sentences to be served consecutive to each other since the assaults were unrelated to each other and involved two separate victims.
"The sentencing principles of denunciation and deterrence must clearly be given prominence," Gorman wrote in the decision he filed for this case.
Gorman also placed Mr. H on probation for two years after the completion of his prison term. During that time, he will not be permitted to have contact with the two children, unless agreed to by the Provincial Director of Protective Intervention and In Care or allowed by another order of the courts.