New Westminster Supreme Court.

New Westminster Supreme Court.

Innocence maintained by jailed ex-border guard

Former border guard Daniel Greenhalgh has been sentenced to two years less a day in jail for illegally strip-searching women at the Douglas (Peace Arch) border.

In handing down the sentence Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven also sentenced Greenhalgh to three years probation, imposed a 10-year firearms prohibition and $400 victim surcharge, and ordered he provide a DNA sample.

It was a “stiff” penalty, according to Greenhalgh’s lawyers.

“It’s certainly more than defence was seeking,” Stephanie Vyas told Peace Arch News Friday afternoon.

Greenhalgh will be appealing his conviction, Vyas noted.

Greenhalgh was found guilty last fall of three counts of sexual assault and one count of breach of public trust in connection with incidents that occurred in 2007 while he was on duty at the South Surrey crossing.

The verdict followed a five-week trial in New Westminster in which three women testified Greenhalgh touched them inappropriately during strip-searches he conducted on his own in areas including a men’s public washroom. A fourth woman said she was made to strip, but was not touched.

At a sentencing hearing last month, defence lawyer Joe McCarthy argued for a lesser penalty – either a two-year conditional sentence followed by probation, or incarceration of 12 to 15 months in a provincial jail.

The sentence given was one of two options suggested by prosecutor Winston Sayson.

It “reflects the court’s denunciation and condemnation of such grotesque abuse of a position of authority and trust,” Sayson said by email, noting Verhoeven had described a conditional sentence order as “wholly and completely inappropriate” under the circumstances.

“By committing these crimes, Daniel Johnson Greenhalgh broke the oath of his office,” Sayson writes. “He breached the confidence of his fellow BSOs (Border Services Officers). He betrayed the public trust vested upon him.”

McCarthy – who was unable to attend the sentencing – told Peace Arch News he wasn’t surprised a provincial sentence (less than two years) was given.

“It became apparent fairly early in the hearing – the actual sentencing hearing, not the one today – that federal time was not going to be an issue,” McCarthy said in a telephone interview Friday.

“The problem is, is that these are very, very unusual occurrences and there isn’t much case law to guide the judge on this matter.”

Vyas noted Greenhalgh maintains he did not commit the acts he was found guilty of. He hasn’t spoken publicly on the matter because he plans to appeal, she said.

“Mr. Greenhalgh maintains his innocence,” Vyas said. “Crown counsel was answering a reporter’s questions this morning with regards to Mr. Greenhalgh staying silent on elements of that pre-sentence report, and that is because he is pursuing an appeal.”

Greenhalgh “continues to have the support of his family and friends,” Vyas added.