Denzel Dre Colton Bird, (“Bird”) 21-years-old, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, breaking and entering and theft last fall. On June 15, 2018, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for striking a woman from behind with a metal pipe, dragging her into an alley and sexually assaulting her in Alberta.
The victim cannot be identified under court order.
In September 2016, the 25-year-old woman was walking to work in the dark at approximately 6:30 a.m. when she was attacked by Bird. The attack caused multiple skull fractures and broken facial bones. She was discovered by two men who found her hanging halfway out of a garbage can and was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Due to the multiple skull fractures and bleeding on her brain, her doctors put her into a medically induced coma for several weeks. After coming out of her coma, she had to learn how to walk and talk again. She was released from hospital in late January 2017.
Earlier on the morning of the attack, Bird had broken into a garage where he stole the pipe that he used in the attack and a jacket. Police found the victim’s blood on Bird’s shoes and on the stolen jacket.
WHAT HAPPENED DURING SENTENCING?
In her victim impact statement, the woman wrote that there were times that she wished she had not survived the attack. She stated that she did not feel that she is the same person since the attack. She described herself as a survivor, but admitted she continues to struggle with her emotions, has trouble with her balance and contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Bird.
The Crown prosecutor requested 20 years in prison for Bird.
Justice Jerry LeGrandeur sentenced Bird to 15 years in jail. Bird was given 2 ½ years of credit for time already served in jail.
Justice LeGrandeur held that the viciousness of the attack on the woman was an aggravating factor.
The consequences of this criminal act were profoundly physically and mentally disabling for the victim and emotionally traumatic and debilitating for her husband and family members.
LeGrandeur also acknowledged that there were mitigating factors when determining the best sentence for Bird. These factors included his youth, his guilty plea and the fact that he was remorseful.
LeGradeur also referred to the Gladue report during sentencing. This report examines an Indigenous offender’s upbringing and background and how it may have played a part in their actions. Bird’s lawyer submitted that his family were survivors of residential schools, he never met his father, he showed symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, he had substance abuse issues and had never received any counseling or treatment, he was abused as a child and has a lower than average intelligence.
WHAT IS A GLADUE REPORT?
A Gladue report gets its name from the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision R. v. Gladue. A Gladue report is a type of pre-sentencing and bail hearing report that a court can request when considering sentencing an offender of Indigenous background under section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code. This section specifically directs courts to exercise restraint, and to consider the particular situation of Indigenous persons when determining the sentence to be imposed for crimes committed by those who self-identify as Indigenous people.
A Gladue report will inform the judge about the personal circumstances of the offender, including information such as:
- where the individual grew up (on-reserve, off-reserve, rural, urban);
- where the individual lives;
- whether or not the individual or members of their family have been in foster care;
- whether the individual or family members attended residential schools;
- whether they have struggled with substance abuse, been affected by someone else’s substance abuse or grown up in a home with substance abuse or addictions;
- whether or not there are counseling programs or rehabilitations programs in the community; and
- whether or not the individual participates in community cultural events and ceremonies.
The intention behind this approach is to lead to a restorative justice remedy and will often allow for a sentence with no jail time, which helps reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian jails. According to a Statistics Canada report released on Tuesday, Indigenous people comprised 27% of the federal prison population in 2016-2017 despite the fact that Indigenous people make up only 5% of Canada’s population.
A restorative justice remedy is one that emphasizes healing the harm done by the offence and rehabilitating the offender to avoid future harms. This is in keeping with Indigenous views of justice.
If you have been charged with a sexual assault offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Barrison Law online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.