Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

Father wins appeal of his conviction for hitting daughter with belt

The man pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon after finding his daughter, 13, sexting photos.

A Salmon Arm father who pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon after striking his 13-year-old daughter with a belt when he discovered her ‘sexting’ has won an appeal of his sentence.

The offence took place when the man, who cannot be named to protect his daughter’s identity, found “inappropriate photos of his daughter, sent to boys, and inappropriate photos from boys, sent to his daughter,” stated the pre-sentence report. “He admitted to getting very upset. He said he went from zero to sixty and got out the belt. His intention was to hit her on the buttock but she turned to the side and he hit her leg. He reported he is not happy or proud of what he did but was at his wits’ end and frustrated.”

Court documents state he struck her once and left a small bruise. She told a counsellor at school and it was reported to police. The daughter told police she didn’t think of it as an assault.

The sentencing judge characterized the incident as similar to “an impulse of anger and frustration of a child running in front of traffic, because the child was being profoundly self-destructive in engaging in this ‘sexting’ behaviour.”

During the father’s sentencing, another assault case of two Salmon Arm parents who spanked their daughter with a mini hockey stick and a skipping rope was cited. Those parents did not plead guilty but were convicted following a trial.

At the sentencing hearing, the court agreed the circumstances of this father’s offence were less serious than that of the two parents. Those parents were given 12 months’ probation and a conditional discharge. With the conditional discharge, they would have no criminal record after three years if they adhered to the conditions.

In this case, the father received six months’ probation and a suspended sentence, which leaves a permanent criminal record. Crown counsel, meanwhile, was not opposed to a conditional discharge.

The reasons for judgment of Justice Ian Meiklem, who ruled on the appeal in B.C. Supreme Court in Salmon Arm on Feb. 3, referred to the sentencing judge’s considerations when deciding on the suspended sentence.

In the case of the two parents convicted of assault, they were described as model citizens without criminal records. In this case, the father had a criminal record including property offences and a drug conviction, but they took place 15 years ago. During sentencing, the Crown had stated the man “has taken significant steps to close that chapter in his life and put it behind him.”

The sentencing judge had concluded that the man’s criminal record, combined with lack of evidence that a suspended sentence would create adverse conditions for the man, meant he couldn’t grant a conditional discharge. Instead, he ordered the suspended sentence – no jail time, but a criminal record. He had, however, referred to the father’s ‘very good character,’ and said he was ‘profoundly impressed with the level of respect and affection’ the father has shown to his daughter.

Appeal judge Meiklem found that the sentencing judge had erred by not considering fully the adverse conditions the father would suffer with a permanent criminal record. The father had referred to all his volunteer work in the community, and how it could be negatively impacted.

Justice Meiklem overturned the suspended sentence and granted a conditional discharge instead, still with the six months’ probation. The criminal record of the conviction will be erased three years after probation.

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