R v Barwell, 2013 ABPC 121268882P1

The accused pleaded guilty to willfully maiming, wounding and injuring a dog (4 months old) between July 24 and August 11. There was discussion of admitting victim impact statements of neighbours who tried to stop the abuse, the dog’s foster owner and the volunteer at the Edmonton Humane Society who took in the dog initially. The court did not allow these to be admitted based on the wording of the s.722(4) and the meaning of “victim” as a “person”, not a dog. There was no case law presented by counsel on whether this had been accepted in the past.
The Crown argued for a sentence of 20-24 months based on the length of the cruelty, the severity of the injuries, the severity and length of the suffering, the position of trust held over a puppy and the fact that neighbours and members of his family attempted to stop the abuse but he persisted.
The defence argued for a conditional sentence of 2 years less a day based on mitigating factors such as a good work record, youth (19 years old at time of offence), mental health concerns, that he was on medication due to injuries sustained in a car accident and substance abuse issues.
The court decided that 14 months would be sufficient to meet the goals of denunciation and deterrence, considering the “sickening” abuse. The court considered the mental health issues suffered by the accused as a mitigating factor. Initially the court considered 17 months as an appropriate sentence but the defence’s submissions on the mitigating factors persuaded the court to lower it to 14 months. The court stated that given the circumstances of the abuse and the accused’s propensity for violence, a conditional sentence was not appropriate.