London Free Press, April 22, 1998

Spanker given probation
Force used on boy was a beating, court told

By Don Murray -- Free Press Court Reporter

A London father who admitted he overdid it when he spanked his six-year-old son was given a suspended sentence Tuesday and placed on 18 months' probation.

The father, who is not being named to protect the child's identity, pleaded guilty to assaulting the boy Jan. 27.

Both Crown and defence lawyers told Judge Douglas Walker suspending sentence was in the interests of justice.

The man, 38, has no criminal record, no history of violence toward his children and is enrolled in anger management counselling. He has been living with his parents because of a court order to stay away from his wife and five children.

The son "is looking forward to being back with his father," assistant Crown attorney John Forrester told Walker. Forrester said the spanking happened about 8 p.m. while the mother was sleeping and the father was caring for the children.

The couple works at the same industry and alternate shifts with sleep and child care.

The spanking was sparked by the father's anger over the boy urinating on the shower curtain. The boy said it was an accident, but the father put him over his knee and spanked him seven times, Forrester said.

The incident was witnessed by a couple of siblings, one of whom said the boy's buttocks were red and bruised.

The mother awoke later and learned of the spanking, which the father admitted. Two days later the mother took the boy to the doctor, who notified the Children's Aid Society -- which then notified police. The Crown said a doctor would have testified it would require significant force to cause such deep tissue bruising.

The boy "was not being slapped, he was being beaten." Defence lawyer George Grant said his client always admitted he spanked the boy, but at first didn't believe he had caused any marks. He admits it was excessive, said Grant, adding it was also the first spanking the father had ever meted out.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code allows parents to spank their children in the interests of correcting behavior, but the force used must not be excessive.

Grant said his client is a college graduate, steadily employed and, although separated from his family, continued to support them.

In addition to that separation, Grant said the father has suffered the experience of a night in jail and the humiliation of finding his story splashed across the front page of The London Free Press the next day. The man, said Grant, just "wants to be reunited with his family."

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