A 40-year-old Halifax man has been handed a six-month house arrest sentence for pepper-spraying a teenager at a Halifax shopping mall.
Christopher Whittle was sentenced Wednesday. The attack happened in September, 2012.
Whittle admitted to the attack, but said he was at his wit's end because his partner was being harassed for his sexual orientation.
Whittle's partner worked at the Dollarama store in the Halifax Shopping Centre. He told the court during Whittle's sentencing hearing that he had been subject to homophobic slurs for weeks.
He said the constant harassment was affecting both his physical and mental health.
On the day of the attack, Whittle went to the mall to confront the girl he'd been told had been the principle tormentor. He brought a can of pepper spray with him.
After confirming the girl's identity, Whittle followed her from the mall and attacked her in the parking garage. He ran up, shoved her to the ground and pepper-sprayed her while shouting insults at her.
He then ran off. When police caught up to him early the next day, Whittle confessed.
But he and his partner have maintained throughout that they didn't know the victim was only 14 years old.
Crown prosecutor Rick Miller questioned how they could mistake a junior high student for an older woman. He also said they had the wrong person.
"The true victim in this matter, the young girl who was pepper sprayed, the Crown believes that she in no way made any kind of homophobic slurs against either the accused or his boyfriend," Miller said.
"And the evidence would seem to suggest that was the case."
In passing sentence, Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Michael Sherar said: "Mr. Whittle has got to be stopped from doing this kind of thing again."
"This young girl shouldn't be going through life looking over her shoulder," the judge said.
The girl's victim impact statement said she has been afraid since the attack.
In addition to the six-month conditional sentence, Whittle faces two years of probation, a 10-year weapon ban and he must supply a DNA sample to authorities. In addition, he must stay away from the victim and the Halifax Shopping Centre, and do 100 hours of community service.
Before he was sentenced, Whittle apologized to the court and his victim.
"I want to apologize to her family for acting the way I did," he said.
Both the Crown and Sherar said vigilante justice cannot be condoned.
"The Crown obviously does not condone any kind of homophobic slur," Miller said. "But at the same time, vigilante justice cannot be condoned as well."
Whittle declined to comment after sentence was passed.