‘Cul­tural gap’ no ex­cuse for wife rapist: Court

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

An Ira­nian im­mi­grant who reg­u­larly raped his wife and beat his chil­dren dur­ing their 16-year mar­riage is go­ing back to jail after On­tario’s top court on Wed­nes­day in­creased his sen­tence.

In do­ing so, the Court of Ap­peal said the lower court judge who handed the man an 18month term was wrong to as­sume cul­tural dif­fer­ences were a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor — even though the de­fence never raised the is­sue.

The man, who can­not be iden­ti­fied by court or­der to pro­tect his now ex- wife and chil­dren, will in­stead have to serve a four-year term, the Ap- peal Court de­cided.

“Cul­tural norms that con­done or tol­er­ate con­duct con­trary to Cana­dian crim­i­nal law must not be con­sid­ered a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor on sen­tenc­ing,” the Ap­peal Court ruled.

“To hold oth­er­wise un­der­mines the equal­ity of all in­di­vid­u­als be­fore and un­der the law.”

In fact, the higher court said, cul­tural be­liefs may even be an ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tor when it comes to sen­tenc­ing.

In June last year, Judge Wil­liam Gorewich of the court of jus­tice in New­mar­ket, Ont., con­victed the man of sex­ual as­sault and four counts of as­sault for of­fences that oc­curred after the fam­ily’s move from Iran to Canada in 2009. The judge ac­cepted there had been “long-stand­ing and on­go­ing” abuse.

Ev­i­dence was that the man forced his wife to have sex with him by hit­ting her, pulling her hair, pinch­ing her, and force­fully re­mov­ing her clothes.

“The sex was painful. She cried out qui­etly so the chil­dren would not hear. She suf­fered painful bruises to her legs and sides,” ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

He also abused their two chil­dren — now teenagers — by slap­ping, kick­ing, punch­ing or strap­ping them. He once locked them out­side on a snowy day while they were bare­foot and wearing only shorts and T-shirts.

The abuse, which only came to light after the younger child talked to a teacher, con­tin­ued even after he moved in with an­other woman.

“The younger boy be­came so ter­ri­fied that he took to sleep­ing with a knife,” court doc­u­ments say.

In sen­tenc­ing him to 18 months, Gorewich ref­er­enced the “cul­tural im­pact” of the fam­ily’s im­mi­gra­tion. Among other things, he took into ac­count the wife’s vic­tim im­pact state­ment in which she ex­pressed sur­prise at the se­ri­ous le­gal con­se­quences of her hus­band’s con­duct.

Her state­ment sug­gested a “sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural gap” be­tween what is ac­cept­able in Canada ver­sus in Iran, Gorewich said.

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