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Parents convicted of spanking teen daughter get conditional discharge

The Salmon Arm Law Courts. - Evan Buhler/Observer
The Salmon Arm Law Courts.
— image credit: Evan Buhler/Observer

A former Salmon Arm couple who were convicted of assaulting their 14-year-old daughter by spanking her with a skipping rope and mini hockey stick in 2015, were handed a conditional discharge today in provincial court in Salmon Arm.

The couple will serve 12 months of probation and, if they adhere to all provisions of the probation will have no criminal record after three years. The parents cannot be identified in order to protect their daughter.

Both parents will be prohibited from applying corporal punishment to anyone under the age of 18 in their care and will be required to provide a DNA sample.

The couple had been found guilty of assault following a February 2015 incident in which the father found nude photos his daughter had sent to her boyfriend via the mobile app Snapchat.

The daughter chose spanking rather than losing her phone for an extended period of time.

In the May 10 sentencing hearing, Crown counsel Mariane Armstrong called the parents actions a breach of trust with a minor and asked the judge for a three-month conditional sentence to be served in the community, probation and a fine of $50 each.

Armstrong acknowledged the parents had shown remorse but, particularly in the case of the mother, believed it stemmed from the resulting publicity rather than her actions.

But defence lawyer Ian McTavish asked for an unconditional discharge, saying the whole family has paid dearly for the parents' mistake by having to move away from Salmon Arm and giving up their many volunteer activities, their church and their children's schools.

McTavish said his clients acted out of loving and moral concern for their child and wanted to provide a strong message about the dangers of sexting.

He also pointed out it was the daughter's friends who told school authorities about the bruising that had resulted from the spanking.

“The daughter is not who complained; no one listened to her, the principal didn’t talk to her,” said McTavish, who read a few sentences of a three-page letter the daughter wrote in her parents’ defence.

“The spanking was a choice; that’s what I picked. I don’t feel like I have a voice,” she wrote. “I don’t want my parents to have a criminal record; I want them to be able to help out in the school and community.”

In handing down his judgement, Judge Edmond de Walle said he had referred to positive pre-sentencing reports for both parents and the many letters praising the couple for their Christian values, positive parenting and longtime volunteerism.

DeWalle noted the parents are clearly not a risk to the community, have undergone counselling, have no substance abuse issues and have been productive members of society.

However, he said aggravating factors include the use of weapons on a child under the age of 18.

He said no evidence has ever been produced that shows corporal punishment is effective but a great amount of evidence that corporal punishment is harmful for teens.

 

He admonished the parents for not having sought non-corporal alternatives from the many sources of help and guidance for serious issues.

 

 

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