A “slap on the wrist” instead of actual justice is how Shelby Thomas described a sentence handed down in a Corner Brook courtroom Thursday.
Thomas, vice-president external of the Grenfell Campus Student Union, was among a group of about 30 people, mostly students at the university, who gathered outside the Danny Williams Building on Mount Bernard Avenue for over an hour to express their displeasure with the conditional sentence imposed on Robert Hicks later in the afternoon. About 10 of them went inside to sit in on the hearing.
Nineteen-year-old Hicks was convicted in December of assaulting a young woman and threatening to kill her in August 2016.
The 15 charges against him included assault, uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, forcible confinement, being unlawfully in a dwelling house, assault with a weapon and failure to comply with the condition of a recognizance.
“It sends a message to men in our province that they can abuse women and get away with it due to the leniency of our justice system,” said Thomas after Judge Kymil Howe sentenced Hicks to one year and 51 weeks of house arrest.
Thomas said sentences like this are just going to keep snowballing into higher statistics of violence against women.
Thomas said the group learned about the case through an article that appeared in The Western Star on Jan. 17.
Being an organization that stands up against violence against women, Thomas said the members thought the sentence — jointly suggested by the Crown and defence — was a lenient one for a perpetrator of assault in a case that included so many charges.
“We had to do something about it,” she said.
Student unions fight for rights and justice all across the country, she added.
“We stand in solidarity with women and we stand in solidarity against violence against women.”
Thomas said they wanted to show their support to Hicks’s victim and made contact with her before staging the protest.
“The only person that matters in this case is the survivor, and the survivor’s needs and the survivor’s wants. So we weren’t going to make any protest if this wasn’t what the survivor wanted.”
As she left court the young woman said it was nice to have so much support from the community.
UPDATED — Edited to correct age.