A man who broke into his ex-girlfriend's Mount Pearl home, sexually assaulted her, physically assaulted her and threatened her and her kids — while the children screamed on the other side of the door — has “absolutely no remorse”, the Crown said Friday, asking a provincial court judge to send the man to jail for at least four years.
“Mr. Barnes actually blamed the victim for the terror he inflicted on her,” prosecutor Shawn Patten told Judge Mike Madden of Benji Barnes, referring to a report written by a probation officer who interviewed Barnes for the purposes of Friday’s sentencing hearing. The report also indicated Barnes is at a high risk to reoffend, Patten said.
Barnes, 37, pleaded not guilty to the charges, testifying the woman had invited him over for consensual sex on the night in question last October.
The woman testified she had fallen asleep watching TV with her children and woke to find Barnes standing next to her. After locking the children out of the room, he assaulted her, dragged her to the bathroom and back again, pinned her to the floor and sexually assaulted her, and threatened to kill her and her children, she said.
The children heard the attack, she testified.
“Mr. Barnes actually blamed the victim for the terror he inflicted on her." — Prosecutor Shawn Patten
The judge didn’t buy Barnes’ version of events, saying it was contradicted by other evidence and Facebook messages exchanged between Barnes and the woman earlier in the day. Barnes had told the woman he was coming over. She told him he wasn’t and demanded she leave him alone, saying she would get a court order forcing him to stay away.
“He, desperate to get back together; she, insisting that he stay away,” Madden said of the messages when he convicted Barnes.
Patten told the court Barnes’ pre-sentence report “speaks of a man involved in an alcohol and drug lifestyle,” with a prior conviction for domestic assault, not much in the way of employment history, and little else in terms of a positive background. Though Barnes had multiple family members supporting him in the courtroom Friday, Patten said none of them were in a position to help him turn his life around.
“His family also has little insight into Mr. Barnes’ behaviour and are in denial or rather are blind to the reality of what transpired,” the prosecutor said.
Patten called Barnes’ crimes an attack not only on the woman, but on the sense of security of all women in the community.
“There’s a saying that one’s home is their castle, a place to feel safe,” Patten said. “(The victim’s) ability to feel safe in her home that evening was violated.”
Patten suggested a jail term of between four and 4 1/2 years for Barnes, and registration on the national sex offender list as well as a ban on firearms.
Barnes’ lawyer, Steve Orr, took issue with Patten’s characterization of his client’s background, saying Barnes had been employed in construction at the time he attacked the woman. In his brief submissions, Orr noted Barnes is close with his family members, who support him. He has two children for whom he pays child support and who have visited him since he’s been in custody, Orr said, and his criminal record is short, without any breaches of court orders.
Orr said Barnes had acknowledged his cocaine and alcohol addictions to the probation officer, and had indicated he is willing to participate in programs to overcome them.
“In terms of the Crown's position, we don’t actually disagree with it,” Orr said. “I think that given the case law on this in other similar cases, a sentence of four years is appropriate.”
Orr requested Barnes be granted enhanced credit for the time he has spent in custody awaiting trial, at a rate of 1 1/2 days for every day behind bars. Barnes has been in custody for 322 days.
Madden will deliver his sentencing decision on Wednesday.