British Columbia

B.C. husband convicted in domestic assault case despite couple's denial

The judge found the victim lied about what happened in court because she was worried about her son — but for the wrong reason.

Judge found victim recanted in court under 'misguided' belief, misplaced concern for her son

An Abbotsford woman recanted in court after being attacked by her husband at home, but the man was convicted anyway on Jan. 18 after the judge found there was enough evidence to rule out the couple's "alternative explanations" of what happened. (Shutterstock)

An Abbotsford man has been convicted of assaulting his wife in front of their infant son to the point where she feared for her life, even though the woman said during the trial that the attack didn't happen.

The man was charged after he hit and strangled his wife during an argument at their basement suite home on Oct. 20, 2017.

The woman, identified in court documents as A.S.G., messaged her landlord for help: "[He's] trying to kill me."

But at her husband's trial eight months later, the woman told a provincial judge she couldn't remember what happened the night she called for help.

Still, the judge convicted the man anyway, saying he suspected the woman was deliberately minimizing the attack in an effort to keep her family together.

Identified in court documents as A.S.G., the victim texted her landlord for help after her husband attacked her at home on Oct. 20, 2017. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

In his judgment, provincial Judge Kenneth D. Skilnick warned the woman that tactic could have a harmful effect on her son down the road.

"If he is raised to believe that violence is normal between a husband and wife, there is a risk that he will think that such behaviour is acceptable and normal in his own relationships when he becomes an adult," Skilnick wrote in the judgement.

'He pushed my neck to kill me'

On the night of the attack, the trial heard, the couple's landlord found A.S.G. bruised with tears streaming from puffy eyes down her swollen face. The whites of her eyes were bleeding because blood vessels had ruptured when her husband tried to strangle her.

When A.S.G. phoned 911, she told the operator her husband had tried to kill her.

The following partial transcript of the call was submitted as part of the trial:

Operator: He punched you in the eyes?

A.S.G.: And he pushed my neck to kill me.

Operator: Okay, so did he beat you?

A.S.G.: Yes.

A.S.G. cooperated with the Abbotsford police investigation after her husband was arrested, but changed her story when the case went to trial months later.

She didn't show up to testify on June 25, 2018, despite being under subpoena.

When she finally did testify at a later date, she told the court she didn't "remember anything."

An Abbotsford, B.C. police cruiser sits outside B.C. Provincial Court in Abbotsford, B.C. on April 30, 2014. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

She also said she'd been living apart from her husband for "a long time" and that their son missed him.

A partial transcript of her testimony under cross-examination was included in court documents:

[Husband's defence lawyer]: Has your husband ever expressed by words or by gestures that he's gonna kill you?

A.S.G.: No.

[Lawyer]: So I can safely say or suggest that there was no actual or real danger at the hands of your husband to your life?

A.S.G.: There is no danger.

A.S.G.'s husband denied ever threatening or assaulting his wife during the trial.

Skilnick, the provincial judge, convicted the husband of assault on Jan. 18 despite the couple's denial that an attack took place because there was enough evidence to rule out the couple's "alternative explanations."

The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) was involved in the case after the attack and both husband and wife told the court their involvement was causing "stress."

"[A.S.G.] is being untruthful because she is under the misguided belief that doing so will somehow take the Ministry of Children and Families out of her life and will get the accused back home," Skilnick wrote.

"The Complainant may believe that it would be better if this incident was overlooked or forgotten."

The judge went on to say A.S.G. was "mistaken" in that belief.

"Young children are like sponges," Skilnick said.

Recantation not uncommon

The Abbotsford Police Department's dedicated domestic violence unit has handled the highest-risk domestic violence cases in the city since its inception in 2010. The unit is made up of two detectives, two MCFD workers and two specialized service workers.

Police Det. Roy McBeth said victims sometimes recant because they want their lives to go back to the way they were, not recognizing potential danger.

"I think one of our best defences is intervening early ... trying to address some of the hardships that she might be dealing with as a result of being separated from her partner," McBeth said.

"The longer things go on, of course, the more difficult it becomes for the victim," he said. "But until the offender behavior is addressed there's really no way to change things moving forward."

He said it's largely the Crown's job to prosecute if there's evidence a crime has been committed "regardless of the cooperation of the victim," for their safety as well as their childrens'.

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk

Rhianna Schmunk is a reporter for CBC News based in Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca or on Twitter: