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Shelley Jesso's bruises were widely seen after an August 2009 assault in Sheaves Cove. ((Submitted by Travis Young))

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says she is unhappy with a western Newfoundland court decision that gave house arrest to a man who assaulted a female neighbour.

Sheaves Cove resident Robert Rowe was sentenced to four months of house arrest in an August 2009 incident that involved his neighbour, Shelley Jesso. Her heavily bruised face was widely seen across Newfoundland and Labrador after the incident was reported.

"This is violence against women," Michael told CBC News Thursday.

"This is an act of violence against a woman … I don't think this is the kind of message that the judge should have sent, that you can beat a woman the way he beat her and get four months of a conditional sentence."

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'The legal system is a joke,' Shelley Jesso said after Wednesday's sentencing. ((CBC))

But Judge Jacqueline Jenkins did not accept testimony provided by Jesso, who claimed Rowe beat her — without provocation — while she was jogging in Sheaves Cove, a small community on the Port au Port Peninsula.

Jenkins, however, ruled that the incident started when Jesso hit Rowe and made profane insults against Rowe's wife. Then, the judge determined, Rowe struck Jesso during what she called an uncontrolled response.

The RCMP had found there was an ongoing feud between the Jesso and Rowe families.

Michael said apart from the circumstances of a family feud, it was clear Jesso was seriously assaulted, and that the punishment is "way too lenient."

She cited images of Jesso's beaten face. "That wasn't just a punch back, and it's still not appropriate," said Michael, who added that Jenkins ought to have sent Rowe to jail.

Jesso was visibly upset Wednesday as she left court.

"If my dad hadn't have shown up, he would have killed me," she said.

"The legal system is a joke. It's a joke. Kids are getting molested and women are getting beaten, and this man walks free. And as soon as he leaves this courtroom, he'll be laughing as soon as he gets out in the parking lot."

Rowe had testified that he hit Jesso twice, and that his retaliation was more than required for self-defence.

Defence lawyer Fred Stagg said the sentence was fair.