R v Nguyen, 2021 BCPC 304

The accused was charged with one count of spousal assault and one count of wilfully killing his cat, Vesper, after becoming intoxicated and loudly argumentative with his wife for failing to throw a party for his birthday. He pushed her after she attempted to keep him quiet so as to not disturb their two week old infant, and she fell backwards onto an air purifier where she sustained bruising on her thigh. The accused had at least two reported police contacts of alleged domestic violence prior to this incident.

His wife described the accused as being in a “blackout” state of extreme intoxication, which she had seen before on previous occasions, prior to him removing Vesper from the apartment and subjecting the cat to an 11 minute beating, kicking and stomping that was caught on the building’s security cameras by the building manager. She located their second cat Macey in a closet, wrapped in a towel inside a small bucket with its lid on, and after hearing what the manager found on the video took Macey to the vet where she had to be euthanized due to her injuries. The accused claimed to have no memory of these events, and attributed extreme intoxication and marijuana use as well as the additional stresses of a newborn and being unemployed for two years as contributing factors to the offences to which he plead guilty.

The sentencing judge considered the pre-sentencing report which revealed that the accused was subjected to neglect and physical and sexual abuse in his youth, and a psychological evaluation which found him to be explosive and at moderate risk for intimate partner violence but that such risk “could be managed “through a combination of monitoring, supervision, treatment and victim safety planning” strategies” (para. 21). No Gladue report was filed, however the judge also considered that the accused had Indigenous heritage despite his lack of connection to it which made him vulnerable to intergenerational trauma.

Combined with other mitigating factors such as sobriety and counselling since the offence, remorse for his actions and his wife’s victim impact statement that he was a good father and caring spouse, the judge suspended the sentence on the spousal assault charge and imposed 12 months probation. Although the judge determined a jail sentence appropriate given the length of attack and death of the cat, the lack of premeditation and extreme intoxication of the accused reduced his moral blameworthiness. A 12 month conditional sentence order followed by 12 months of probation, along with a five year prohibition of owning or residing with any animals was ordered.