Supreme Court Judge Ron Veale sent a clear message to Yukoners last Friday: that domestic violence will not be taken lightly.
He overturned a lower court decision that discharged a former Whitehorse jail officer for assaulting his former wife. He did not receive a criminal record and was given a probation period of 15 months.
In October last year, the territorial court found Troy Alex Mackenzie guilty of assaulting Melanie Jensen and violating his probation conditions by making contact with her three times during the course of the trial.
Mackenzie put Jensen in a “chokehold,” but did not cut off her breathing on Aug. 31, 2011, according to court documents. He did this in front of her children.
He broke his court orders on three separate occasions in the span of three weeks in September 2011. He phoned Jensen repeatedly between September 3rd and 4th. He appeared at her residence and made threats on her children. And he yelled at her at the local Superstore, saying he would “beat the crap” out of a guy who was picking her up.
It’s not the first time Mackenzie faced the courts. In 1995, he was also conditionally discharged for an assault without a criminal record.
Mackenzie maintained he was not guilty throughout the trial.
Being that a criminal record would impact Mackenzie’s job and he had a clean track record, judge Michael Cozens, who presided over the case, said that a jail sentence was not necessary. Cozens also noted that Mackenzie was in counseling for his obsessive compulsive disorder and alcohol consumption.
His conditional discharge would be in Mackenzie’s “best interest,” and “not contrary to public interest,” Cozens stated in the court document.
“Mr. Mackenzie, this is an opportunity, for a second time, to avoid a criminal conviction. I am confident that you can, as you did before, complete this (probation) without problems,” Cozens said at the trial, according to the case document.
But Crown prosecutor Noel Sinclair did not agree with the sentence. He appealed Cozens’s decision.
“You’re not going to get a light touch if you are found guilty of those things and you don’t show any remorse for your behaviour,” Sinclair said. A message must be sent not just to the offender, but to the public to denounce domestic violence, he said.
Veale agreed. Mackenzie’s denial of responsibility precluded him from being accepted into a spousal abuse program, one of which being the Domestic Violence Treatment Option. The creation of such a program by the territorial court and Yukon government goes to show how prevalent domestic violence is in the Yukon, stated Veale in court document.
“This does not mean Mr. Mackenzie should be penalized for not pursuing the Domestic Violence Treatment Option, but it does attest to the importance of taking responsibility in domestic violence cases in Yukon,” Veale said.
Veale cited the high rates of domestic violence in Yukon, which is almost three times higher than the rest of Canada.
He blames the “macho, frontier-mentality” and high rates of alcohol consumption for the death of at least 10 Yukon women who died at the hands of their partners.
“In my view, granting a conditional discharge in the circumstances of this case is contrary to public interest and a demonstrably unfit sentence,” said Veale.
Mackenzie is now convicted with a criminal record and must serve an extra seven months of probation.
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