15-year prison term upheld for Mountie who tortured son in Ottawa basement
WARNING: This story contains graphic details
A disgraced RCMP officer convicted of torturing his captive 11-year-old son at their home in suburban Ottawa fully deserved his 15-year prison sentence, Ontario's top court ruled on Tuesday.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal found no legal errors in the judge's approach to punishing the now former officer, who can only be identified as D.D., for the "horrendous abuse" inflicted on his boy, some of which was videotaped.
D.D., who was an RCMP counter-terrorism official, was convicted in 2016 of a litany of offences, including aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, sexual assault causing bodily harm and unlawful confinement.
The case, which reduced investigators to tears, came to light in 2013, when the starving boy escaped the family home.
His injuries included burns to his genitals from a barbecue lighter, and scars around his ankles left by shackles.
D.D., a self-admitted "monster," testified in his own defence he believed he was "living with the devil" and said he was afraid his son was planning to stab him in the heart in his sleep.
The Crown wanted a 23-year prison term, but Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger sentenced the then-45-year-old in April last year to a total of 15 years, saying what was inflicted on the victim was outrageous.
D.D. appealed, asking the higher court to cut his total confinement to as little as five years. Among his three appeal grounds, he argued Maranger was wrong to view the appropriate range of sentence — based on other child-abuse cases — as between 12 and 20 years.
In rejecting the argument, the Appeal Court noted the wanton viciousness the father visited on his son.
"I see no reason to repeat the incomprehensibly cruel acts visited upon the young victim by his father, the extreme pain he must have endured, and the terror he must have experienced," Justice David Brown wrote for the appeal panel. "The appellant engaged in a horrific course of abusing his son over a six-month period."
Maranger correctly noted the sentencing range for cases of extreme child abuse varies widely and found the abuse in this case was at the "furthest end" of the spectrum, Brown said.
D.D., who had tried to argue he was not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder, also maintained Maranger had not given enough weight to psychiatric and psychological evidence of his mental health as a mitigating factor.
The Appeal Court rejected that argument as well, saying the trial judge had reviewed such evidence at length and made no errors in his understanding of what he heard. D.D. may have suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder but nothing so severe that the father was incapable of appreciating the horrors of his ways, the court said.
Among other arguments the Appeal Court rejected was D.D.'s assertion that the boy had made a "quick physical recovery" and that, apart from the abuse inflicted, he was an otherwise good parent. In the ruling, Brown noted a comment Maranger had made at sentencing:
"That a parent could do the things that were done to (the boy) was gut-wrenching," Maranger said. "That being said, however, the fact that this half-starved, burned and battered 11-year-old could somehow summon up the strength to escape his cruel captivity and later seemingly rise above it, is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit."