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Comox man who broke into former partner's home and assaulted her to serve full sentence: B.C. Court of Appeal

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Warning: This story contains graphic details.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a man's appeal for a shorter sentence after he was convicted of breaking into a former partner's home and seriously assaulting her in early 2020.

On Dec. 28, 2019, Clinton Armstrong was arrested for slapping his common law spouse and pushing her in Comox, B.C.

At the time, Armstrong and the victim were living together but had agreed to separate.

After being arrested on Dec. 28, he was released on conditions intended to protect the victim.

However, while still under those conditions, Armstrong returned to the victim's home armed with a "boxcutter-type tool," broke a window and entered on Feb. 10, 2020.

He then attacked the victim, leaving her with more than a dozen injuries on her face and neck, as will as a dozen similar injuries on her torso.

She also suffered defensive wounds on her arms and hands, resulting in stitches to her right thumb and a 16-centimetre scar that is visible on her face, appeal judge Ronald Skolrood noted in his decision to dismiss Armstrong's appeal on Jan. 12.

The court heard that Armstrong had told the victim that he was going to kill her before she was able to escape to a neighbour's home.

Armstrong briefly chased her before returning to the victim's home and vandalizing her house and car, causing significant damage before he was arrested by police.

CONVICTION AND SENTENCING

In August 2021, Armstrong was convicted of several charges related to the attack, including aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, breaking and entering and forcible confinement.

At a hearing in November 2021, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for the aggravated assault and eight years in prison for the break-in, to be served concurrently.

Armstrong appealed the length of the sentences, saying that the seven years handed down for the aggravated assault fell outside of the normal range for that offence, and that the judge ignored some mitigating factors.

In his appeal decision, Skolrood wrote that while the general range for aggravated assaults is 16 months to six years, there's nothing stopping a judge from assigning a sentence that falls outside the usual range of an offence.

"The issue is whether the sentence is proportionate to the offence committed and the moral blameworthiness of the offender," said Skolrood.

"As noted, the judge considered all of the relevant circumstances, including mitigating and aggravating factors, and concluded that the assault of the complainant was a 'grave crime with a high degree of moral culpability,'" he wrote.

Armstrong also argued that the trial judge failed to properly consider several mitigating factors, including the fact that he did not contest all of the charges, that he did not have a history of violence with the victim prior to the attack, that he completed several rehabilitative programs after his arrest and that he showed remorse for the crime.

He also said that previous run-ins with the law that were considered by the trial judge were not relevant to the current case.

Armstrong has a reported history of alcohol and opioid abuse, and he was convicted of impaired driving two times, in 1990 and 1992. In 2004, a restraining order against him was granted to a former partner, and in 2005 he received a suspended sentence for assaulting another former partner.

Armstrong argued that the incidents happened decades ago and noted that he had no prior violent encounters with the victim in 2020.

However, the trial judge said that Armstrong's past presented a "high risk of violence in intimate partner relationships" and felt they were somewhat relevant to the case.

Skolrood ruled that the sentencing judge had adequately weighed all the factors and that they arrived at an appropriate sentence.

"Mr. Armstrong is effectively asking [the Court of Appeal] to engage in a process of reweighing those factors. That is not the role of this court, and does not accord with the standard of deference owed to sentencing judges," he wrote.

Armstrong's leave to appeal was granted by the B.C. Court of Appeal, but the appeal itself was ultimately dismissed.

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