Family abuser sentenced to house arrest

The Cornwall courthouse at 29 Second Street West. (Newswatch Group/File)

WARNING: This story contains details of family abuse that may be upsetting to some readers. Discretion is advised.

CORNWALL – An octogenarian convicted of inflicting decades of of abuse on his family has been sentenced to a little less than two years of house arrest.

The 83-year-old man and his four family members can’t be identified because there is a court-ordered publication ban on the case.

The man was initially convicted on 24 charges in October 2018, following a trial, which included assault, indecent assault, common assault, death threats and mischief. Two convictions were struck from the record today because the judge said be made an error in applying law.

During the trial, court heard the alcohol-fueled abuse amounted to acts of punching, kicking, poking and pushing the three children and his wife and throwing household items. A child was also lifted off the ground by their hair while another was kicked down a flight of stairs. Some kids were hit with a belt – sometimes with the buckle end. This happened during the family’s time together in four different homes in South Glengarry and Cornwall, starting in the early 1960s, before the victims went to police in 2016 after the wife divorced her husband in 2015 after 52 years of marriage.

The indecent assaults happened when the father had inserted two fingers in his 13-year-old daughter’s vagina as he was putting on a cream treatment for scabies. “Days later, Mr. (father) propositioned (daughter) for anal penetration and when she declined, Mr. (father) grabbed her arms, kicked her in the shins and pushed her away,” Judge Rick Leroy stated.

A psychiatrist evaluated the father and concluded the indecent assaults were “opportunistic” and not a “predisposition” to prey on that age group. He is also at a low end of the scale to re-offend.

In his decision today (Friday), Judge Leroy did not discount the seriousness of the acts, but said the 30-year cycle of family abuse “was not a reign of terror scenario,” as he described times where family “life was functional” when the father wasn’t drinking. Leroy described the man as “a repeated abuser but not a repeat offender.”

Leroy also did not sentence the man on two counts of making death threats, because the alleged threats happened in 1977 when a spoken threat made face to face was not considered an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. “Those convictions were made in error,” the judge explained.

The judge explained the man is still in denial today about almost all of the abuse.

The elderly patriarch will be spending 23 months and 27 days under house arrest at an Ottawa community agency which provides GPS monitoring. He has spent the past year under pretrial custody with an ankle monitoring bracelet at the same facility. As part of his sentence, he will continue to wear that tracking device.

The sentence included credit of just over a year for pre-sentence custody.

The man will also be banned from owing weapons for 10 years and will be on the National Sex Offender Registry for 10 years. He also has to abstain from alcohol. He will be on probation for three years.

The sentence may appear lenient because the law is applied based on what the provisions were in the Criminal Code of Canada at the time. Many of the acts happened in the 1960s and 1970s – a time when corporal discipline was allowed in schools where principals gave students the strap in school, Leroy explained.

“Mr. (father)’s sentence ought to recognize those societal norms when those offences were committed. The gravity and defences of domestic violence has not changed rather societal perception has. The law tended to treat these affairs as private matters until the 1980s,” the judge explained.

“Save for the choking incident, I’m not convinced that individually the other assaultive behaviour including the incident assault…would have attracted imprisonment at that time. Most were properly in the category of summary conviction offences. Collectively, it is a bigger matter, and it is on that basis sentence is imposed,” Leroy said.

In addition to the nearly two year conditional sentence, there is a 10-year no-contact order with the victims or being within a 25 kilometer radius of them. The elderly man has to report any “new relationship” to a probation officer for monitoring.

The Crown had been seeking a 12 year prison sentence while the defence had wanted a conditional (house arrest) sentence of two years less a day.