An Iranian immigrant who systematically brutalised his wife, and was subsequently given a light prison sentence by a Canadian judge, has been sent back to jail by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
According to this report, the man expressed surprise at his original trial that there were serious consequences in Canada for beating one’s wife. He was jailed for 18 months by Judge William Gorewich, who cited a “significant cultural gap” while discussing his reasons for imposing the light sentence.
The man was released from prison after serving less than half of his sentence.
Earlier this month, a three-judge appeal panel found the sentence to be “manifestly unfit” and ordered that he be arrested and sent back to prison for a total sentence of four years, minus one year’s credit for time and parole already served
The convicted man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, moved to Canada with his family in 2009. The judges found he sexually assaulted his wife three to four times a month, forcing her:
To have sex with him by hitting her, pulling her hair, pinching her and forcefully removing her clothes. The sex was painful. She cried out quietly so the children would not hear.
He also violently abused her and their two sons, slapping, kicking and punching them and hitting them with a belt.
The judges added:
On one occasion he locked them outside on a snowy winter day while they were wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirts. They waited barefoot for 40 minutes until their mother arrived home.
The assaults, which began in Iran, continued in Canada and came to light when the youngest son confided in a teacher at his school.
The appeal judges noted that the man did not use his cultural background as a defence for his actions; he denied the violence entirely. Yet Gorewich still referred to cultural issues twice in his sentencing.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Gorewich erred by finding that the wife and children had “no injuries”; the man was at no risk of re-offending, and the sentences should be concurrent. But the judges reserved a page and a half of their 14-page ruling for refuting his use of cultural considerations in sentencing.
Cultural differences do not excuse or mitigate criminal conduct. To hold otherwise undermines the equality of all individuals before and under the law, a crucial Charter value. It would also create a second class of person in our society – those who fall victim to offenders who import such practices.
This is of particular significance in the context of domestic violence. All women in Canada are entitled to the same level of protection from abusers. The need to strongly denounce domestic violence is in no way diminished when that conduct is the product of cultural beliefs that render women acceptable targets of male violence.
If anything, cultural beliefs may be an aggravating factor enhancing the need for specific deterrence in cases where the sentencing judge is satisfied that the offender continues to maintain those views at the time of sentencing.
The man, who operates a carpentry business, was released after serving six months in prison and now lives with another woman and his sons.
He has no insight or awareness of the seriousness of his actions, the appeals court judges wrote, nor is there any evidence of rehabilitation.