Fort Saskatchewan, AB (Fort Saskatchewan Record) – Members of the RCMP should be held to a higher standard than the rest of society, or so a recent court ruling seems to indicate.
Retired RCMP constable Chad Barry Haggerty may have expected that when he pled guilty to a single count of domestic assault and was sentenced on April 12 in a Fort Saskatchewan Court.
The court heard Haggerty had gotten into an argument with his domestic partner, an RCMP 911 operator, on the night of Jan. 22, 2011.
After coming in late, his partner found herself unable to sleep in bed with him, so she went down to the basement to sleep.
A short while later, Haggerty came down and demanded to know why she had gone downstairs, and an argument started.
Rather than continuing the argument, she rolled on her side. After demanding she look at him, Haggerty forced her on to her back and laid on top of her.
She again rolled away, and he grabbed her arms and forced her to a sitting position. She fought him off and the pair managed to end the conflict shortly after.
The partner left the house and contacted the RCMP after Haggerty went back to bed.
After detailing the charge itself, Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle noted Haggerty had a history of domestic abuse, with two prior wives and a common law partner all saying the relationships ended because he was abusive, dating back to 1995.
Doyle said the main foci of sentencing were denunciation and deterrence, with rehabilitation being a lesser consideration.
She also read a victim impact statement from the former partner, who noted she had often dealt with 911 domestic calls.
“I never imagined that I’d be the one on the other side,” she wrote. “My life changed in an instant.”
Due to the nature of the offence, Doyle sought a two year probation and a 60-90 day prison sentence.
Defence attorney Zane Pocha argued for a conditional discharge, a sentence that would have given Haggerty probation but no jail term nor a criminal record.
Pocha noted the 38-year-old Haggerty was Metis and raised in a household where he was surrounded by abuse and abused himself throughout his childhood.
Haggerty was noted to have suffered from severe post traumatic stress disorder both from his childhood and his RCMP work.
Pocha said Haggerty had worked his way out of a cycle of poverty to make his way to the RCMP, where he investigated various crimes related to friends and relatives and found himself assaulted numerous times while working alone.
He argued Haggerty had already dealt with the denunciation, as news of the initial charges were published publicly and led to Haggerty’s decision to resign from the RCMP and move to a different community.
Doyle argued the public humiliation was because of Haggerty’s job as a police officer.
“It is difficult to contemplate an offence less consistent with the public interest than dmestic violence,” she said.
“This is criminal activity that happens in secret,” she added. “The point of a discharge is to keep it quiet.
“There’s nothing more inconsistent than that.”
For his part, Haggerty spoke at length and seemed genuinely remorseful.
“I’ve had difficulty in accepting that I wasn’t a very good person,” he said.
“It’s difficult to look in the mirror and realize I’m not exactly what those reference letters say,” he added, noting a number of positive character reference letters submitted by the defence.
He listed the women in his life, adding. “Fantastic women I treated horribly.”
He ended by apologizing to his partners and to the court, the prosecution and his former RCMP colleagues for having given a bad name to members of the judicial system.
After hearing all the arguments, Judge Burgess explained how he chose the sentence at length.
He said the guilty plea was mitigating, but he noted domestic assault statistics were alarming.
Burgess did note Haggerty has sought treatment for his anger, is attending domestic abuse counselling and is open with his new partner about his abusive past.
Burgess dismissed Haggerty’s life history and PTSD as excuses, noting Haggerty did nothing to stop the ongoing pattern of abuse until after he was charged with assault.
He went on to reject the idea of a conditional discharge, saying “people have to know there are consequences for this kind of offence.
“He’s in a position of respect in the community. When someone violates that, the public has to be aware that society will not tolerate that kind of conduct.
“He should have known better.”
“I’m puzzled how I can properly address the principles of denunciation and deterrence without a jail term, and I can’t.”
Burgess then sentenced Haggerty to a two year suspended sentence along with a 60 day jail term that he’ll serve intermittently in Calgary.
Haggerty is still awaiting trial on two domestic abuse charges stemming from his second marriage, which ended in 2004.