Parents get conditional discharge for spanking teen daughter

By Barb Brouwer Salmon Arm 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 have received a conditional discharge in Salmon Arm provincial court.

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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's identity.

In addition, both parents are 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 sent to her boyfriend via the mobile app Snapchat.

As punishment, the daughter chose spanking rather than losing her phone for an extended period of time.

During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor 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.

Defence lawyer Ian McTavish asked for an unconditional discharge, saying the family had 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 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 decision, Judge Edmond de Walle said he 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 added, 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 noted there is a great amount of evidence showing 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.

Following the parents' convictions in January, de Walle noted the reasons cited by the father and mother for the spankings, that they were punishing their daughter out of love, not hate.

"The child understood that her parents's beliefs about discipline came from their adherence to the Bible, which they believe advocates the use of the 'rod' to spank, rather than the hands, as hands are to be used as instruments of love," de Walle said in his ruling. RELATED http://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/parents-convicted-after-spanking-teenager/

http://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/are-you-aware-of-possible-change-to-spanking-law/

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