Outrage: Grieving Cowell family says Suarez Noa sentence 'too lenient'

Judge in Cowell-Noa trial delivers sentence to 38-year-old Haiden Suarez Noa. Cowell family says it's too lenient and will continue to fight the court ruling.

Judge delivers sentence in manslaughter verdict

Cowell family shocked by judge's sentence Friday afternoon. They vow to 'make it right' (Kelly Noseworthy)

Thirty-eight-year-old Haiden Suarez Noa was sentenced to 11 years in prison Friday for killing his 36-year-old common law partner, Tania Cowell — a sentence that only heightened the outrage already felt by the victim's family in the case.

The victim's family is outraged, saying it's too lenient, and that the family will continue to campaign to change the judicial system and the ability of killers to rely on the defence of provocation.

It was the judge's responsibility to send a strong message to the community but that didn't happen today.- Natasha Dobler,  Hamilton Woman Abuse Working Group.

"I'm disappointed in the judge. I thought he would get it right. The jury got it wrong. No, he did not get it right. He played it safe," said Julie Cowell, the victim's sister-in-law, in tears after the sentencing.   

Tania Cowell was stabbed 11 times while their infant son lay on the couch in their Stoney Creek apartment on March 9, 2013.

Suarez Noa was originally charged with second-degree murder but was found guilty by a jury of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

His defence had successfully argued there had been "provocation" in the form of an argument over the sharing of housework and child care where she had threatened to kick him out and leave the relationship .

"I am just disillusioned with this whole what we call a justice system," she said. 

Provocation defence

"First of all, there is no justice here," Cowell said outside the courtroom. "There is no justice because she is never going to be alive again, but at least we could walk away with some sense (that) he is going to be behind bars for a long time so we can move on in our family and have a sense of peace. No, we don't get that sense of peace."

The provocation defense is a defense with a complex history in Canadian law, particularly as it pertains to domestic violence.

Justice Robert Reid, in announcing the sentence, acknowledged provocation as a factor, but said it was not a significant factor in his sentence.

He reviewed a variety of case law to explain how he arrived at the 11-year sentence.

Ivon Cowell, the victim's brother, felt the judge's sentence made the defense seem acceptable.

"If you know the criminal system and you get the right lawyer and you can put the right story together, the story can match the provocation rules. So he had two-and-a-half years to make his story, which the judge acknowledged he doesn't necessarily believe his story, but believes provocation somewhere does exist."

Activist for change

The case has turned Julie Cowell into an activist. She is writing petitions and has co-founded a grief counseling group with the families of homicide victims. 

The victim's family has vowed to continue to campaign to get the provocation defence removed from the criminal code.

 "I've been talking with politicians, specifically Filomena Tassi. She and I are going to be working together to protect victims rights."

A message not sent

Also shocked and saddened by the judge's decision was Natasha Dobler, chair of the Hamilton Woman Abuse Working Group.

 "Women need to feel safe and secure in their homes.  It should be the safest place for women and it wasn't for Tania Cowell," said an emotional Dobler.

"It was the judge's responsibility to send a strong message to the community but that didn't happen today."

The Crown has applied for an appeal of the verdict.

If accepted, it will go to appeal court. At that point, Cowell said, "There is a glimpse of hope that it might go through and then we start a new trial, and that at this point is the only thing we can hold on to because the sentencing did nothing."

When asked if the family is prepared to begin the process again, Cowell didn't think twice.

"This has destroyed us inside. But you know what? To get what should have been right, and make what was wrong right, yes, we'll go through it again."

As part of the sentencing, Suarez Noa has to submit a DNA sample to the courts, and not to contact the Cowell family or his son while in custody.