Woman assaulted by boyfriend pleased Crown appealing absolute discharge

Aden Savoie says recent social media posts by her ex boyfriend suggest he has no remorse or desire to change.

But Aden Savoie has no faith in justice system, says Lancelot Saunders feels what he did was OK

Aden Savoie says after her boyfriend assaulted her, the justice system seemed to prioritize his rights and future over hers. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Aden Savoie is glad the Crown is appealing the sentence given to the man who hit her, saying his absolute discharge sends a message to other abusers that they'll get away with it.​

Savoie, 19, publicly vented her frustration on Facebook earlier this month when her ex-boyfriend, Lancelot Saunders, 20, was given an absolute discharge for assaulting her at a home in St. John's in April.

He pleaded guilty but in her decision, Judge Lori Marshall said she considered Saunders's plan to go to university and move on with his life.

Savoie told CBC News on Tuesday that she wouldn't have gone through with it if she'd known what the outcome would be. She said it's good the Crown is appealing, but the discharge has shaken her faith in the justice system.

This isn't right, and he's just going to do this again.- Aden Savoie

Saunders got a free pass, she said, and his social media posts indicate that, despite what the judge thinks, he hasn't changed.

"He thinks it's OK, and that's pretty much what the justice system let him think."

She's seen posts by Saunders since the discharge that accuse her of just seeking attention, suggesting she's lying because she didn't call the police immediately.

"I'm worried. There's nothing keeping him away from my house, from my work," Savoie told Here & Now.

"I don't want to hear from him, I don't want to see him, and now that there's nothing there, he can do whatever he wants. It's not right."

The attack

Savoie said Saunders assaulted her after an argument one night when he'd been taking prescription drugs.

"He pulled my hair and he hit me," she said. Then he hit her with a clothes hanger. "He broke a piece of glass, by accident, and then he cut me a bit with that, on my arm."

When he was hitting her, she said, the only thing in her mind was that she just wanted him to stop.

"I just kept screaming, and I screamed louder and louder every time, because I just wanted someone to hear me," she said.

Saunders then left to get more drugs, she said, leaving her half a Percocet to take for the agonizing pain she was in. He came back a couple of hours later.

"He said, 'Are you going to act like this never happened or are you going to be a bitch about it?'" she said. They argued again, and she left but came back for her clothes. He had called her parents, who came to pick her up.

Savoie says she's worried about being contacted by her ex-boyfriend, since his absolute discharge doesn't prevent him from doing so. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The assault was devastating for Savoie.

​"He was someone that I loved, and when you love someone you don't ever expect them to hurt you the way he did me," she said.

After a few days, she said, her father called Saunders's family to suggest they get him help for his drug problem. When that didn't happen, she decided to go to the police.

Savoie arrived at court Dec. 1, prepared to testify but was stunned to find out Saunders had agreed to a plea deal and utterly dismayed when she later learned he was given an absolute discharge, meaning he was found guilty but not convicted, and won't have any probation or conditions.

"I was just, like, this isn't right, and he's just going to do this again."

Assault on a partner 'not acceptable': Justice minister 

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said he was notified of the decision to appeal by the Crown prosecutors' office Monday, but not because of the public outcry since Savoie told her story.

Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons spoke to CBC via Skype from Ottawa, where he is attending meetings. (CBC)

"I'm certainly cognizant of the feedback that's out there on social media, and I take this all in, but these decisions are made on a legal basis, and the Crown attorneys in this matter, and our director of public prosecutions would have looked at the matter, looked at everything that made it up, and then made that decision to proceed."

What we have here is an assault by a male on their partner, and that's unacceptable.- Andrew Parsons

That said, Parsons added, he understands why people are upset about the absolute discharge.

"This is not the first time even in my short tenure here that I've seen a decision come out that's attracted significant public interest and public outcry," he said.

"We have to make decisions on the legal aspects. But when I take off my attorney general hat and when I put on my hat as just a regular person, as a dad, what we have here is an assault by a male on their partner, and that's unacceptable."

Sentencing sends message

There are several aspects to sentencing, Parsons said, including rehabilitation, denunciation and deterrence.

"And we have to look at the messages sent by these decisions." 

In granting the absolute discharge, Marshall told Saunders, "I have no reason to doubt that you are a very intelligent young man who, if you get yourself on the right path and continue on that path, should be very successful in life."

Savoie learned after the fact that because she didn't write a victim-impact statement — which she was told was optional — influenced the sentence, as well as scratches on Saunders' arms that indicated to the judge that the fight wasn't one-sided.

"It's just not right," she said. "It's being spun around on me, is basically what it is."

Savoie told CBC the message other victims will get is that the law is on the side of abusers.

"That's how it felt for me," she said. "It didn't seem as if I was the priority in the case. It seemed as if it was him who took priority. Definitely, that sends a message to people who are nervous and scared to come forward … It was terrifying. I didn't want to go and testify."

Attempts by CBC to contact Saunders have not been successful. Marshall has declined to comment on the discharge.

With files from Carolyn Stokes.