Delays in Vernon domestic abuse case lead to lesser sentence | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Delays in Vernon domestic abuse case lead to lesser sentence

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January 20, 2021 - 6:30 AM

An Okanagan man who confined his former partner in a motel room where he repeatedly abused her over the course of several days, will not spend any more time in jail, due in part to lengthy court delays.

A year-and-a-half after pleading guilty, on Jan. 18 at the Vernon courthouse, B.C. Provincial Court judge Jeremy Guild sentenced David James Courtoreille to time already served in custody.

Judge Guild told the court if the proceedings had taken place earlier as they should have done, his decision may have been different. 

While the judge stopped short at staying how the sentence would have been different, it's likely Courtoreille would have seen more time behind bars.

“What do I do with the delay? How do I factor in the victim's and society's interests… in a timely way?” the judge said. “The closer in time somebody is able to deal with something they did wrong the greater the impact it has on the person, and also the better impact it can have on the victim and society.”

Courtoreille originally pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in June 2019, and began his sentencing hearing in October that year. However, on two separate occasions in late 2019, the judge ran out of time before he could deliver the sentence, leaving Courtoreille out on bail and the matter unresolved.

Since then, the 51-year-old failed to show up to court on several occasions and his lawyer had lost contact with him.

Defence lawyer Glenn Verdurmen said his client was homeless and bounced between shelters in Vernon and Kelowna.

The case dates back to December 2018, when Courtoreille's partner of almost 25 years, fled a motel room the couple were staying in following days of physical and mental abuse.

"He had been kicking her, he had been throwing hot water at her, he was not letting her eat, he was not letting her sleep... he would grab her head and put her head into the toilet and flush it and flush it,” Crown counsel previously told the court.

Courtoreille's former partner spent five days in hospital following the abuse. Courtoreille was arrested and charged with assault, assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, and unlawful confinement or imprisonment.

The court heard how the couple had had a "toxic" relationship and Courtoreille had previously spent time behind bars for assaulting her. Courtoreille has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and while they had split up, they continued to get back together, until this assault.

"This is not the first, not the second, not even the third time he has seriously assaulted his partner," the judge said.

Verdurmen told the court his client had grown up in northern B.C. and suffered abuse from his parents who were both functioning alcoholics. He started running away from home at age eight, and drinking alcohol at age 13. He also had significant mental health issues and had met his former partner in a psychiatric hospital more than 20 years ago.

“He was using alcohol and drugs as a way of getting away from his pain,” the defence lawyer said.

The court heard how Courtoreille had originally said he only pleaded guilty to get a lesser sentence, and that his former partner was lying and her injuries were self-inflicted. He blamed her for “pushing his buttons.”

In the 18 months since pleading guilty he appeared to have had a change of heart.

“If I could I'd like to apologize to (his former partner),” Courtoreille told the judge. “I've come to realize that there are more important things in this life besides just myself… I’m very, very sorry.”

Courtoreille said he’d been sober for 13 days.

Crown prosecutor James Bagan asked for between 16 and 24 months jail, while the defence asked for a sentence of time already served as Courtoreille had spent five months in jail before being released on bail.

Verdurmen said Courtoreille was addressing the many issues that had built up over his lifetime and he needed rehabilitation and it made no sense to send him back to jail. Verdurmen said that his client hadn't breached his bail conditions, with the exception of not showing up to court.

Bagan argued Courtoreille had not taken significant steps in terms of rehabilitation while on bail and that he shouldn’t benefit from the court delays he caused.

“What's necessary to... bring home to Mr. Courtoreille ... is (that) partner violence is not acceptable, (and) to demonstrate to other people it's not acceptable,” the judge said.

Judge Guild said he’d like more time to think about the sentence, but given all the delays he would not adjourn the matter further.

Ultimately, he sentenced Courtoreille to time already served followed by 24 months probation, which included rehabilitation. Courtoreille is also not allowed to enter into a relationship without the permission of his parole officer.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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