Quebec court of appeal doubles man's sentence to denounce 'unacceptable' domestic violence

A Montreal judge didn’t impose a harsh enough sentence to denounce domestic violence when she sent a man to jail for a year after he broke his girlfriend’s nose in a violent home invasion, the Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled.

After a night of drinking in May 2017, Patrick Davidson hopped in a cab and went to his girlfriend’s place to collect money from her. She met him outside to hand over the cash, but that’s when he grabbed her keys, barged into her apartment against her wishes and then hit her in the face, threw her into a wall and held her against the couch while twisting her arm, court documents show.

Then, he threatened to kill her if she called the police, which she later did.

Davidson was charged with five counts, but later pleaded guilty to two: uttering death threats and breaking and entering and committing an assault. 

At the end of the trial in 2019, a judge sentenced him to 12 months in jail and two years of probation — a sentence now deemed to have been "unfit."

Following an appeal from the Crown, a panel of judges ruled last week the sentence didn’t go far enough "to denounce the unacceptable and criminal character of domestic violence and to enhance the confidence of the victims and the public in the administration of justice."

The trial judge placed too much weight on the man’s efforts to rehabilitate himself in arriving at the 12-month sentence, according to the appeal court decision. The ruling stated the judge overlooked the fundamental sentencing principles of denunciation and deterrence, "which are of paramount importance in matters of domestic violence."

"Domestic violence and the context of a home invasion are very important aggravating factors and should incite the courts to favour deterrence and the protection of society over the rehabilitation of an accused, particularly where that rehabilitation is incomplete and uncertain," the appeal court ruling stated.

Indeed, Davidson has turned his life around since the assault. At his sentencing hearing, court heard he had been sober for two years, spent six months in therapy, and had completed 15 counselling sessions at the McGill Domestic Violence Clinic. He also found a job in the healthcare sector.

The ruling also revealed he was released from jail early after serving one third of his sentence.

The appeal court doubled the original sentence to two years, but Davidson won’t be going back behind bars. The court stayed the remainder of his sentence and added an additional year of probation through May 2022.

The appeal comes on the heels of a recent rise in deadly domestic violence cases in Quebec, with eight women allegedly being killed by their male partners in an eight-week period. Advocates have called on the Quebec government to do more to support women fleeing violence they say has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, here are some available resources:

  • SOS violence conjugale (1-800-363-9010)
  • Your neighbourhood CLSC (Info-santé: 811)
  • Crime Victim Assistance Centre (1-866-532-2822)
  • Assistance aux femmes (514-270-8291)
  • Shield of Athena (514-274-8117 or 1-877-274-8117)
  • Find the nearest shelter at Women's Shelters Canada

If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. 

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