A Winnipeg man with ties to Steinbach was sentenced to two years of probation after pleading guilty to assault with a weapon in Steinbach court on April 22.
The 36-year-old man, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the child, accepted the charges that were issued in response to him using a leather belt to discipline his then five-year-old son with severe autism resulting in ‘significant’ bruising on his thighs and buttocks.
The incident occurred in December 2019 when the child was in his care during a scheduled weekend visit. Upon being returned to the mother she noticed marks on him that were not previously there. Due to the cognitive nature of the child, court heard he is non-verbal and thus unable to explain what happened. After being questioned, the accused admitted to the lashing and RCMP were contacted to press charges.
Defense Attorney Matt Gould explained during the sentencing at the time of the incident the child was experiencing a tantrum after being instructed to go to bed. Upon refusal, his father resorted to using the belt he was wearing at the time to discipline him. Gould said this was the discipline his client received as a child therefore it was the only way he knew how to deal with the situation.
"What occurred with (the accused) was the realization about the injuries that they were worse than what he had intended, or what he expected the next morning, which he indicates and still indicates he instantly regretted and has regretted every day since," he said.
Crown prosecutor Theresa Cannon said due to the cognitive ability and age of the child at the time of the offence the nature of the assault would be aggravating.
"Considering the young age and the ability of the child I think it must be considered; society needs to protect our children at all times," she said during proceedings.
Cannon pointed out that while a jail sentence would be the norm, considering the actions in which the accused took proceeding the incident including taking responsibility for the accusation and attending counselling, the sentence could be served by way of a probationary period. According to the Criminal Code of Canada, charges of assault with a weapon can warrant jail sentences of up to 10 years.
Provincial Court Judge Lawrence Allen said in his ruling based on the photos submitted as exhibits the child had significant bruising and the child was struck multiple times, citing the gravity of the offence was severe.
"He lost control of his temper and his parenting status," Allen said of the incident.
"This is the 21st century. And in the 21st century, we may not have achieved enlightenment to very many things, but one thing we have moved towards some degree of maturity about is the abuse of children, and the excessive discipline of children. Our society no longer accepts corporal punishment of children."
After consulting with his lawyer, the accused told the court he regrets the incident.
"I want to apologize for what I did and my actions, I overreacted."
Despite the aggravating factor of the attack, Allen factored in the steps he took to remedy the situation as well as the protection order put against him which prevented him from seeing his child in the 17 months since the incident took place.
"The defense points out that (he) has done some relatively significant rehabilitation efforts, and further that in the letter that he has written I think has demonstrated significant remorse for what's happened."
In addition to two years of probation, he is mandated to attend anger management classes, have no contact with his son unless approved by Child and Family Services, perform 40 hours of community service and register with the Child Abuse Registry.