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Benji Barnes' attack was a serious assault on the victim's physical and psychological integrity, says judge
A victim impact statement is a written explanation from a victim of crime, presented in court in their own words, explaining the physical, emotional and financial damage they have suffered because of an offender's actions. It's an optional process, and is taken into account by the judge when the offender is sentenced.
Provincial court Judge Mike Madden said Wednesday he didn't need an impact statement from the victim in Benji Barnes' case to know his crimes had a traumatic effect on her and her young children.
"I feel confident in finding the impact must have been considerable," Madden said. "I would also find that the children, given their young age, must have been in fear of their mother's safety. This impacted them as well, but only in the long term will we know how badly."
The two children were at home in Mount Pearl with their mother when Barnes, 37, broke into the house and sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and choked her, as well as threatened the lives of all three. They screamed from the other side of the door, the court heard, as the attack took place.
Madden sentenced Barnes to 4 1/2 years in prison, ordered his name registered on the national sex offenders list, banned him from firearms and compelled him to submit a sample of his DNA to a database.
"I would also find that the children, given their young age, must have been in fear of their mother's safety. This impacted them as well, but only in the long term will we know how badly." — Judge Mike Madden
Madden said Barnes had broken into the woman's home knowing she and her children would likely be present. The woman was Barnes' ex-girlfriend, and her children knew him, the judge said.
"The intent was to sexually assault a former intimate partner while the children were elsewhere in the home, but not so far as to be unaware of their mother's cries or the sounds of the struggle," Madden said. "Mr. Barnes was prepared to use physical violence and did use physical violence against the victim to further the assault."
The woman sustained multiple injuries as a result, the judge said, calling Barnes' attack on the woman a "serious assault on the physical and psychological integrity of (her) person."
The woman had testified she had fallen asleep watching TV with her children one night last October, and had woken 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.
Barnes pleaded not guilty, saying the woman had invited him over for consensual sex.
Madden convicted Barnes, saying text messages exchanged between him and the woman earlier on the day of the attack indicated otherwise. When Barnes had messaged the woman to say he was going to come to her house that night, she replied and told him no, saying she would go to court to get a court order forcing him to stay away.
Last week, prosecutor Shawn Patten argued for a jail sentence of between four and 4 1/2 years for Barnes, telling the judge that Barnes had "absolutely no remorse" for his crimes and "actually blamed the victim for the terror he inflicted on her," according to a pre-sentence report written by a probation officer who had interviewed Barnes. The report also indicated Barnes is at a high risk to reoffend.
Barnes' lawyer, Steve Orr, didn't disagree with Patten's suggested sentence. He said Barnes was willing to participate in programs to overcome addictions to cocaine and alcohol.
Orr requested Madden grant Barnes 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. Madden agreed, leaving Barnes with just over three years to serve.