British Columbia

Gay-basher gets 6 years for sucker punch

A Vancouver construction worker has been sentenced to six years in prison for sucker-punching a gay man in a West End pub last year, after the judge ruled that hate was an aggravating factor in the crime.

A Vancouver construction worker has been sentenced to six years in prison for sucker-punching a gay man in a West End pub last year, after the judge ruled that hate was an aggravating factor in the crime.

Shawn Woodward, 37, was charged with aggravated assault after Richard Dowrey, 62, was punched in the Fountainhead Pub, a well-known gay bar on Davie Street, on March 13, 2009.

Judge Jocelyn Palmer ruled on Monday morning in B.C. provincial court in Vancouver that Woodward acted without provocation, used repeated homophobic slurs, showed no remorse for the attack, all of which was an example of his virulent homophobia, and therefore fit the framework for tougher sentencing provided by Canada's hate crime legislation.

Dowrey was celebrating his retirement the night he was attacked. He was knocked to the concrete floor by the punch and suffered a brain injury that has left him unable to feed or dress himself since.

The judge also noted that he can no longer even retain the memories of his father's death, meaning he must suffer again every time he asks about his father.

Although there were 11 letters from Woodward's family and friends saying he is a man of good character, the judge said those supporters do not understand the seriousness of his crime. She said it was important to send a message of deterrence and denunciation with a  long prison sentence.

Woodward stared straight ahead and only once shook his head as the judge described him as not expressing any remorse for the crime. He did not look at the gallery in the courtroom as he was handcuffed and led away to begin his sentence.

Admitted to punch at trial

At last month's sentencing hearing, Woodward's lawyer asked for a sentence of two years, telling the court his client does not hate gay people and overreacted in an effort to prove his manliness.

Woodward admits to punching Richard Dowrey in the Fountainhead Pub in March 2009.

But prosecutors argued that Woodward's blind-side punch should be considered a hate crime, and asked for a sentence of at least seven years in prison for the aggravated assault conviction.

During the trial in August, Woodward admitted punching Dowrey, but he maintained the older man was making unwanted sexual advances toward him at the bar and claimed the punch was thrown in self-defence.

Patrons from the pub, which is in the heart of Vancouver's gay district, chased Woodward and held him until police arrived. At the trial, some witnesses from the bar testified Woodward used homophobic slurs after the attack and said he claimed Dowrey had offered him a drink and touched him.

The judge found Woodward guilty after ruling that his testimony was not credible and that there had been no sexual assault.