A concerned mother told a Yellowknife courtroom that her son, convicted of aggravated assault, changed “pretty much overnight” six weeks ahead of his 18th birthday.
The teenager was “a kind, thoughtful boy,” involved in volunteer work, hand games and always considerate to his younger brother and cousins. After one trip to Hay River for a hand games tournament at the end of August 2019, his mother testified that something was different about him and she “no longer saw Shawn behind his eyes.”
On Nov. 7, 2020, the teen was staying with his aunt and uncle and their three young children in Behchoko.
When his uncle got up one evening to get a glass of water, the young man, unprovoked, stabbed him repeatedly in the back with a 10-inch kitchen knife.
As the victim bled, the assailant told him, “I’m sorry bro. I love you. Don’t die.”
Crown prosecutor Billi Wun said the assault was neither a consensual fight nor a case of self-defense gone too far.
“He attacked him,” Wun said, “and his moral culpability is high.”
Considering the numerous stab wounds to the victim’s torso and the back of his neck, Wun said it was fortunate that he made a full recovery.
The Crown prosecutor suggested a sentence of two years followed by one year of probation for the attack.
Wun found it aggravating that the offender was not able to provide a rationale for his actions in a pre-sentence report (PSR). At the time of the offence, the teen was under the influence of alcohol and shatter, a cannabis concentrate. When he loses control, Wun told the court that the offender could present a concern to public safety.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte suggested that the teenager be released from the North Slave Correctional Centre (NSCC) and instead serve a lengthy probationary period with strict conditions and psychological and psychiatric help.
Around the time his mother noticed the changes in her son, who’s now 19, he would complain of hearing sounds of things moving around the house, or someone talking to him from his closet. In a letter submitted by a former teacher, the offender is described as becoming obsessed with security cameras around the school and sometimes hitting the walls and wandering off the property.
Though the guilty party was in counselling for a brief time, once he turned 18 he began to refuse help.
“Often people with psychiatric disabilities end up in jail because there are no alternatives,” Harte said. “Here, there is an opportunity to take advantage of a very supportive environment, ” and not allow the young man to “fall through the cracks.”
Harte suggested that the teen should be required to provide all documents and instructions to his biological and adoptive mothers so that they could make decisions on how to best support him. He would have to adhere to a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and refrain from alcohol or marijuana consumption.
Addressing Wun’s assertion that the offender would pose a threat to public safety, Harte said that keeping him behind bars is only a temporary solution. He suggested a more rehabilitative approach, saying that “if he’s released from custody without dealing with his issues, none of that will teach him what he needs to know.”
Judge Donovan Molloy told Harte that his suggestion of time served would be “a very low sentence.”
Harte said it’s justified by the “unusual factors” of “a good kid who suddenly, as a result of psychiatric problems, finds himself in conflict with the law.”
Molloy put over his decision to Aug. 31.
In the meantime, the offender has been released on a release order requiring him to remain in his Behchoko residence at all time times, with exceptions only for counselling and meeting with his bail supervisor.