Burns Lake man sentenced to three years on assault charges

Justin Smith will serve one year nine months in addition to time-served

A 43-year-old Burns Lake man has been sentenced to three years in prison for assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement and sexual assault causing bodily harm.

Justin Smith was sentenced on July 4 in the B.C. Supreme Court at Smithers.

Smith pleaded guilty to four out of 13 charges stemming from offences committed between July and October 2018 in Burns Lake and one additional charge of assault arising from an August 2007 incident in Quesnel, where the defendant was originally from before moving north for work.

In a joint submission between the Crown and defence, prosecutor Lisa Feinberg cited the guilty pleas as a mitigating circumstance. Aggravating circumstances included a dated but related conviction from the 1990s and other factors that cannot be reported due to a publication ban on information that could lead to the identification of victims.

Feinberg also submitted victim impact statements that told of ongoing emotional, psychological and physical distress and four examples of case law suggesting a range in sentences from two and six years incarceration for similar circumstances.

Defence attorney James Heller added his client’s remorse and efforts at rehabilitation while incarcerated since the end of October 2018, including substance abuse counselling, as mitigating factors. Heller suggested the offences were uncharacteristic and related to drug use.

“He is not at heart a bad man, but appreciates these are bad acts,” Heller said.

Smith himself addressed the Court by video from the Kamloops Correctional Centre saying a day does not go by when he is not deeply remorseful.

It was an emotional plea that ended with Smith seeming to directly address one of the victims, who was in the Smithers courtroom.

“I am very sorry, I hope you know that,” he said.

Justice Janet Winteringham accepted the joint submission noting the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Cook that instructs trial judges that a joint submission “should not be rejected lightly, it is a high threshold.” The case established the “public interest test” as the standard, saying judges “should not depart from joint submission unless the proposed sentence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute or is otherwise contrary to the public interest.”

Winteringham noted the offences before her were “extremely troubling” but agreed the sentencing recommendation was within the correct range, although at the lower end.

Nevertheless, she said she felt it was “just and fit” based on the mitigating circumstances and Smith’s remorse and willingness to engage in rehabilitative programs, which the judge said she felt was sincere.

On the basis of the joint submission, she sentenced Smith to two years, nine months on the Burns Lake assault causing bodily harm; one year each, concurrent, on the unlawful confinement and sexual assault, six months, concurrent, on a breach of a no contact order; and three months, consecutive, on the Quesnel file.

He received 374 days credit for time-served.

Winteringham also imposed inclusion in the national sex offender registry for 20 years, mandatory DNA order, a 15-year firearms prohibition, and forfeiture of a number of firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows seized at the time of Smith’s arrest.

The Crown dropped the remaining nine charges.

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