Nfld. & Labrador

Corner Brook judge calls his own harassment sentencing decision 'woefully inadequate'

Judge Wayne Gorman wrote he would rather give jail time to a man who harrassed his ex-partner, but the legal system effectively tied his hands.

Judge wanted to give jail time to man who harassed ex-partner

A judge in Corner Brook says his sentence of two years' probation for a man who harassed his ex-partner is 'woefully inadequate.' (CBC)

A judge in Corner Brook isn't satisfied with a sentence he handed down last week, calling two years of probation "woefully inadequate" in the case of a man guilty of criminally harassing his ex-partner.

In his Sept. 20 decision, Judge Wayne Gorman wrote he would rather administer jail time for the offence, which he said "illustrates the long-term and significant impact" that such a crime can have upon its victim.

But as the Crown and defence lawyers had jointly requested probation instead, he was effectively legally bound to comply, due to a 2016 Supreme Court ruling.

"I do not have the authority to reject the joint submission presented," he wrote.

The man in the case pleaded guilty to the charge, but the Crown stated it was worried that had the matter gone to trial, it would have been hard to convict him, and so found probation a reasonable request.

Gorman noted this was the third time that he had to "reluctantly" accept a Crown request for probation in a criminal harassment case where the victim was a former partner.

'Significant impact' on victim

In this latest case, a man began harassing his ex-partner in May 2019 despite being bound not to communicate with her. He and his sister drove by the woman's residence pointing and laughing, and even after receiving a police warning, they drove by again and parked outside.

Gorman said these actions showed the woman "that neither the police nor a court order could prevent him from having contact with her. He was seeking to intimidate, humiliate and frighten here.… He was successful in doing so."

The woman, fearing for her safety, left the province. In her victim impact statement she said relocating has been financially troublesome and strained relationships, and that she "lives in fear of continued and unwanted contact."

Gorman said that showed the "significant impact" the harasser had on the woman.

"It has effectively banished her from her home, as if she was the offender," he said.

A period of imprisonment would have been an appropriate sentence.- Judge Wayne Gorman

In compiling previous similar cases to examine sentencing precedents, Gorman noted most offenders received jail time, from between one month to a year.

In this case, although the harassment occurred over a short time frame, Gorman said that mattered little, as the charge is inherently serious and its impact upon the victim severe.

"A period of imprisonment would have been an appropriate sentence," he said.

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