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Macleod man jailed for threatening his wife and children

A Fort Macleod man went to jail for 30 days Wednesday for threatening his wife and two daughters and vowing to burn down their house.
The man, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his victims, was found guilty following a trial June 13 in Fort Macleod provincial court.
Sentencing was postponed until Wednesday so a pre-sentencing report could be prepared to provide Judge Derek Redman with information about the accused’s background.
Court was told Wednesday the man did not attend a scheduled appointment with the probation officer who was to prepare the report.
Defence lawyer Miranda Hlady said her client was prepared to proceed with sentencing without the benefit of the report.
During the June 13 trial court was told the man phoned his family Oct. 20 to say he would kill them unless one of the girls “changed her story” in relation to a sexual assault with which the man is charged.
“The threat was not just made to the wife, it was to his wife and children,” Crown prosecutor Vaughan Hartigan said.
Hartigan said it is aggravated by the fact the threat involved the man’s wife, two girls under the age of 18 and he abused a position of trust or authority as a parent.
“The threats themselves were serious in nature,” Hartigan said. “They were particularly disturbing, involving burning down the house and also assault the one daughter who was the complainant in a sexual assault complaint against this accused.”
The sexual assault charge is to be tried in Court of Queen’s Bench in Lethbridge. There is a publication ban on that case.
Hartigan said the woman and her children were upset about the threat, and an advisor told her to report it to the police.
“I would further submit that an aggravating factor with respect to this offence is the fact that the offence itself was effectively an attempt to interfere with the judicial proceedings,” Hartigan said. “The threat to the daughter was that if she didn’t change her story that she would be assaulted. That was in the context of the larger death threat to the individuals involved.”
Hartigan said threats can be anything from “mere puffery” or “fighting words” to actual harm.
Hartigan was also concerned the threat was interfering with the sexual assault case.
“It is a particularly aggravating circumstance where an individual not only threatens his wife, not only threatens his children in a very serious way, but also threatens directly a participant in the legal process,” Hartigan said. “I would submit the court has a very strong interest a well as a very strong duty in relation to the participants in the system that matters are fairly heard.”
The Crown sought a four-month jail sentence to address the principles of deterrence and denunciation of the crime.
Hartigan said the sentence should be more than “a short, sharp sentence” commonly used to deter an individual from reoffending.
Hartigan said four months is more than a nominal sentence but balances the fact the man does not have a prior criminal record.
The Crown also wanted the man sentenced to probation, with conditions that he not contact the victims, not possess any weapons and submit a DNA sample to be kept on a national databank.
Hlady argued for a lesser sentence of one year of probation, pointing out her client does not have a criminal record and has complied with the conditions of his release for the better part of a year — not getting into further trouble.
“My friend’s concerns regarding the administration of justice and interference with justice are unmerited,” Hlady said. “His other matters are scheduled for trial and there has been no suggestion he is in any way trying to delay those matters. I would suggest he is trying to have those matters dealt with promptly and responsibly.”
Hlady said her client has struggled with alcohol abuse most of his life and is now attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
“He is certainly trying to maintain a sober life,” Hlady said.
The man also suffers from depression and is seeking clinical help, Hlady said.
Judge Redman called for a brief recess to consider the matter after hearing submissions from the Crown and defence lawyers.
Judge Redman talked about the principles of sentencing — deterrence and denunciation of the crime, and sometimes to separate offenders from society.
Judge Redman said he took into consideration that the threat involved the man’s wife and children — and that by making the threat the man violated a position of trust as a parent and a husband.
“Part of the threat involved burning down the residence with the family inside it,” Judge Redman said. “It was a very serious aggravating form of threat.”
Judge Redman rejected the Crown’s bid for a four-month sentence, taking into consideration the lack of a criminal record and the man’s battles with alcoholism and depression, settling instead on 30 days in jail followed by one year of probation.
The man cannot possess a weapon for three years, must take counselling and treatment for substance abuse, psychological issues, anger management and control, and cannot have contact with his wife and children.
The judge rejected the Crown’s request for the man to submit a DNA sample.

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