The recent ruling in R v Woodward, 2011 BCCA 251 provides a quotable quote on the importance of consequences in sentencing. In Woodward the appellant had attended a local bar that was predominantly, but not exclusively, frequented by the gay, lesbian and transgender crowd. The victim, William Dowrey was at the bar that evening as well; he was 61 years old and was celebrating his retirement. Neither Dowrey or the appellant were gay [para 2]. During the evening Dowrey on two separate occasions approached the appellant and offered to buy him a drink. On the first occasion the appellant stated "No. I'm not like that". On the second occasion Dowrey asked the appellant if he wanted to play pool and the appellant stated "I don't want a drink, I don't want to play pool, I just want to be left alone".
Shortly after this incident the appellant had apparently decided to leave; before doing so, however, he approached Dowrey. He punched Dowrey in the face. The punch was of such force that he knock Dowrey unconscious. Dowrey fell and struck his head. As a result of the punch and fall Dowrey suffered a catastrophic brain injury [para 9].
Dowrey survived. He was in the hospital for four months. Dowrey has "permanent cognitive, memory, behavioural, and psychomotor disabilities. He will forever be incapable of living on his own" [para 11].
The appellant was convicted after trial [2010 BCPC 177] and sentenced by the trial judge to six years jail [2010 BCPC 271]. On appeal the appellant argued, inter alia, that the trial judge erred by placing too much emphasis on the victim's injuries. In doing so, the appellant asserted that there was an "element of chance" in the injuries and that the injuries were unusual for a single punch [para 31]. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and offered the following quotable quote:
Once again, the facts do not support this submission. As previously mentioned, Mr. Woodward went out of his way to deliver a punishing blow to a person who could not have anticipated being attacked and was, therefore, completely defenceless. While Mr. Woodward may not have intended to change Mr. Dowrey's life forever, he did intend to harm him by using force that Mr. Woodward knew, or ought to have known, had the potential to inflict serious injury. The fact that this was, to use Mr. Woodward's terminology, a 'one punch assault' does not lessen the gravity of what he did" [emphasis added] [para 32]