A sentencing hearing for a man who slashed another man in the face with a pocket knife in 2016, cutting his victim open from ear to chin and leaving him with permanent scarring and nerve damage, was held in Whitehorse May 17.
Wesley Quash, 27, was found guilty of aggravated assault by territorial court Judge Michael Cozens Jan. 18. The conviction stems from an incident in October 2016, when Quash had a confrontation with a stranger, Steve Smith, on a Whitehorse street over how loud Smith was speaking.
Following a verbal back-and-forth, Smith ran at Quash, at which point Quash pulled out a pocket knife and swung it at Smith, cutting Smith’s face open from below his ear to his chin.
In a victim impact statement read to the court by a Victim Services member, Smith said the attack has left him feeling mad, sad, hurt and helpless.
“I’ve been a mess a lot of the time,” Smith wrote, explaining that on top of the scar across his face, he will have to take medication to manage the pain and emotional distress for the rest of his life. As well, Smith said he was unable to work while he was recovering, is afraid to go out alone at night and is also embarrassed to eat in public.
Crown attorney Paul Battin and defence lawyer Mark Chandler disagreed on how much time Quash should serve for his conviction, with the Crown requesting four to five years and defence suggesting four months.
Battin argued that several aggravating factors justified a longer imprisonment. Quash used a weapon in the assault, Battin said, and caused “very serious” physical and emotional harm to an unarmed stranger. As well, Quash has a criminal record that includes one prior conviction of common assault and a handful of impaired driving charges.
Quash also didn’t access programming while being held at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to address any of his issues, Battin noted, including his “heightened sense of being under attack.”
“He walks around with this feeling that’s he subject to attack by the public. It’s a paranoia,” Battin said, arguing that the public must be protected and people with similar thinking must be shown that a reaction like Quash’s is not acceptable.
The assault’s “substantial impact” on Smith should also be taken into account, Battin added.
“(Quash is) someone who made a choice that night, and that choice had a permanent impact on Mr. Smith,” he said.
The Crown is also requesting a DNA order, a lifetime weapons ban and the forfeiture of Quash’s knife.
Chandler, however, argued that a sentence of four months’ imprisonment followed by two years’ probation and a 10-year weapons ban was appropriate. He listed mitigating factors in the case, including that Quash has shown remorse; has gainful, long-term employment; is financially supporting his aunt and pregnant partner; was responding to a threat of force; did not plan the assault; and only slashed Smith once.
Despite growing up in difficult circumstances outlined in his Gladue report, Chandler noted that Quash had completed high school and has worked at a mine in British Columbia since February 2017, with his employer submitting a letter of support stating he’s satisfied with Quash’s performance and work ethic.
Although there’s no doubt about the assault’s impact on Smith, Chandler said shorter custodial sentence with a longer probation period will address the need for punishment and allow Quash to continue working, “which is clearly a positive influence on his life.”
“For his benefit and the benefit of his partner and child, he should be given a chance to succeed,” Chandler said.
Cozens, who reserved his judgement, said the case posed a “conundrum.” On one had, he said, Quash had committed a serious assault, but he is also a First Nations man with a steady job financially supporting his partner and in a position to provide for their coming child.
Depending on the sentence, the child could have the chance to be raised with a supportive father, Cozens said, or grow up with a father who’s absent because he’s in jail, further perpetuating the effect of intergenerational trauma.
“It’s not a mitigating factor…. It’s just a sad aspect to this case,” Cozens said.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org