Father who abducted son was arrested 'on way to police station'
A call for a federal jail term for a man who pleaded guilty to abducting his own son last fall was backed Thursday by the probation officer who prepared a pre-sentence report on Benjamin James McBeath.
The programs that would most benefit the 35-year-old are not available at the provincial level, Ranita Kajil told Surrey Provincial Court Judge James Bahen.
"In the provincial system, given the recent cutbacks, I don't feel there is the type of program that would be adequate for the offender," Kajil said.
But McBeath's lawyer, Mark Rowan, was quick to try and discredit Kajil's opinion, pointing out that she arrived at it based on an inaccurate list of charges against his client, the majority of which were more serious than those currently before the court.
As well, Kajil relied on the "internal judgment" of her office colleagues in accepting a risk-assessment opinion on McBeath provided by RCMP Cpl. Allison Douglas, a domestic-violence officer, Rowan charged.
"You've done how many reports?" Rowan asked Kajil, who told the court earlier she had compiled about 300 pre-sentence reports over the course of her seven-year career.
"Did you know that in arriving at her opinion, (the officer) relied on alleged violent acts that my client says never happened and there is no evidence of?
"You accepted her opinion that he was a high-risk violent offender? You didn't look behind that opinion?"
Kajil responded that Douglas is an expert in the field.
McBeath is awaiting sentencing on charges of abduction of a person under 16, assault causing bodily harm and being in a dwelling house without lawful excuse.
Initially charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and break-and-enter, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges in December.
He was arrested Sept. 27, after police were called to a home in the 1500-block of King George Boulevard around 8 p.m.
Upon arrival, officers determined there had been a dispute, an alleged assault of a woman and the alleged abduction of a four-year-old boy.
An Amber Alert was issued around 9:40 p.m., but was deactivated about two hours later, after the boy was found in a vehicle spotted two kilometres away.
According to Rowan, McBeath was arrested en route to turn himself in at Surrey RCMP. McBeath had called Rowan that night, stating he was suicidal and wanting to know what he should do with his son, Rowan said.
"I ripped a strip off him," Rowan told Bahen. "I told him he couldn't commit suicide. He accepted my word.
"My client was on his way to the Surrey detachment when he was arrested."
McBeath has been in custody ever since.
In addition to Kajil, the court heard from Ashley Murray, a student in clinical forensic psychology who authored a report on McBeath at the court's request.
Murray found McBeath posed a high risk for future intimate-partner violence, and a moderate risk to reoffend violently against others.
In cross-examining Murray, Rowan asked if medical notes – including one that states his client "is determined to make whatever amends possible to his wife, to support his child… demonstrate to all he is a good and responsible citizen" – were considered. He also wanted to know why McBeath was noted to have engaged in violent behaviour from the age of 10, with no mention of its relation to him being bullied; and why a relationship McBeath had 14 years ago with a married woman who was seven years older than him was relevant.
While Rowan described the latter "more of a moral commentary," Murray said it speaks to a pattern of infidelity and to McBeath's attitude toward relationships.
In calling for a sentence of six to 12 months in custody and three years' probation, Rowan cited mitigating factors including that McBeath pleaded guilty early in the process; has taken several courses to improve himself while in custody, including for violence prevention, substance-abuse management and parenting; and has shown remorse.
As well, Rowan pointed to a psychiatrist's finding that McBeath presented a low to moderate risk to reoffend, and a low risk of future violent behaviour towards his wife, from whom he separated in August.
Rowan also asked Bahen to consider character letters provided by McBeath's adoptive parents, biological mother, an uncle and a friend, all of whom attended court for the hearing Thursday; and a letter of apology that McBeath wrote to his wife, in which he states he "can't imagine how hard it has been to experience such a terrifying and traumatic event at the hands of someone you once loved and trusted – me."
"You never deserved to be treated like this, especially by me, someone who should have protected you at all costs and with my life, if necessary," McBeath wrote.
Support in helping McBeath explore and understand his aboriginal roots from the Siksika First Nation is also worth noting, Rowan said.
While prosecutor Brian Shaw acknowledged that McBeath has been torn between two cultures, he argued that the findings of the psychologist's report warrant heavier weight in sentencing. They are more telling, along with McBeath's own account of the offence, he said.
"I haven't seen too much more chilling than his own recounting (of what happened)," Shaw said.
"At one point, he thought (his wife) was dead. Horrific is the only way of describing it. Those are the facts this court must decide this case on.
"It's his behaviour, his actions, his choices that he's made. He's not a person that can be trusted."
Shaw said a federal jail term – more than two years – is called for, noting the maximum sentence on the assault is 10 years.
Bahen, citing the volume of material to review, reserved a decision on sentencing.
On Friday he set a sentencing date of May 11.