UPDATED: B.C. polygamous leaders sentenced to house arrest

UPDATED: B.C. polygamous leaders sentenced to house arrest

Winston Blackmore and James Oler were found guilty of practicing polygamy last year

After nearly 27 years of investigations and court proceedings, two religious leaders associated with the polygamous community of Bountiful were sentenced to house arrest in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

WATCH:

Winston Blackmore was conditionally sentenced to six months imprisonment to be served in the community followed by a 12-month probation.

Co-accused James Oler was also conditionally sentenced to three months imprisonment to be served in the community followed by 12 months probation.

Both are bound by house arrest, unless they are working at their jobs or grocery shopping, along with completing a number of hours of community service during the probationary period.

READ: Prosecution, defence spar over sentencing hearing for B.C. polygamist leader

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson had recommended six months for Blackmore, while defence had asked for a conditional or absolute discharge.

In both sentences, Justice Sheri Donegan determined that a conditional or absolute discharge would be inappropriate, before outlining her findings for both accused.

“The public interest requires a sentence that reflects the fundamental need to uphold the rule of law and one that gives proper consideration to the pressing objectives of denunciation and general deterrence in this case,” said Donegan. “Failing to do so would undermine the public’s trust in the administration of justice.”

The two were found guilty of practicing polygamy in July 2017, after Donegan rejected a constitutional challenge from Blackmore who argued for a stay of proceedings.

READ: B.C. judge rejects Winston Blackmore’s challenge of polygamy prosecution laws

Blair Suffredine, Blackmore’s lawyer, said the sentence was more than he anticipated.

“I was sort of expecting something more in the three-month range or potentially consideration of a discharge on perhaps a lengthly term, but all in all, I don’t think we’re really upset,” Suffredine said.

“We’re going to review it as people always do, but I don’t know if things will change after that.”

Blackmore and Oler each faced one count of polygamy after charges were approved by special prosecutor Peter Wilson in 2014. Blackmore’s indictment included practicing polygamy with 24 women, while Oler was charged with practicing polygamy with four women.

Blackmore is alleged to have 149 children, while Oler allegedly has 24.

Both were leaders of their respective fundamentalist groups, which split into two factions following a rift with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints in 2004.

It’s the end to a long series of police investigations and court battles stretching back to the early 1990s.

While polygamy was first investigated 27 years ago, charges were never pursued because Crown counsel believed a prosecution would fail under a defence of religious freedom, as polygamous marriages are a central tenet of the fundamentalist Mormon faith.

A landmark ruling in 2011 upheld the section of the Criminal Code that criminalizes polygamy after years of constitutional vagueness, paving the way for the current prosecution.

“In reaching her decision, Justice Donegan carefully balanced a number of factors, exercised restraint and leniency in dealing with this first instance of a modern-day polygamy conviction,” said Alisia Adams, a spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service. “This is the first polygamy conviction in over 100 years in Canada and so the issues that the court had to address were novel and the circumstances of these particular offenders were unique.”

While Adams noted that the convictions and the sentences for both serve as a deterrent for anyone practicing polygamy in the future, it is unclear what will change — if anything — for Blackmore and his polygamous relationships going forward.

However, with regard to Oler, Donegan’s sentencing ruling noted that he has been living away from the Bountiful community for the last five years in near isolation.

Donegan noted there were aggravating factors to Blackmore’s case, such as marriages to nine girls who were between the ages of 15 years old and 17 years old.

“Mr. Blackmore expresses no remorse, only resentment at a system he believes has failed to protect, what he feels is his religious right,” Donegan said. “Although he reports no plans to marry again, there is a legitimate concern that he may continue to facilitate and support plural marriages of others.”

Donegan also noted Oler’s case also involved three marriages of girls between 15 years old to 17 years old.

“He does not feel remorse for his offence because he feels he did not know any other way of life and sees no harm or victims in his offence,” Donegan added.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
Fraud scam, car in ditch among weekly Kitimat RCMP report

Kitimat RCMP report from Dec. 18 to 24

(Mountainview Lodge photo)
Santa and Mrs. Claus payed a special visit to the residents at Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat back in December to help raise their spirits during the difficult Christmas season.
Good News, Kitimat!

Bringing some local good news to your week

Black Press file photo
Clare’s Corner: Baking the day away

My grandmother was a fantastic baker, and it’s a hobby she’s passed down through generations

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read