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.

Just Posted

North West softball team wins gold at BC Summer Games

Two Prince Rupert players were on the Zone 7 boys U-16 team that went 5-0 in the tournament

Longtime vice-principal Kevin Leach resigns from Charles Hays Secondary

Aja Lihou takes on new role as vice-principal at the high school in Prince Rupert

Big wrestling from a small town

Aaron Roubicek wants to put Prince Rupert on the map at the BC Summer Games

WEB POLL: Are you guilty of foodwaste at home?

B.C. food retailers are trying to change people’s behaviour to reduce food waste

Bear Creek continues $14.5M civil suit with Brucejack Mine owner

The Terrace-based company is looking for damages for unpaid work as it continues Highway 16 work

BC Wildfire merges two Okanagan wildfires

Large plume of smoke seen over the fire was a controlled event

Newspaper carriers wanted!

Contact The Northern View today to find out how you can become a part of our team

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

ZONE 8: Williams Lake’s Gabby Knox is a 2nd-generation BC Games competitor

Both parents competed in softball, but Knox is making waves in the pool

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

ZONE 7: Players’ insistence delivers North West softball team to BC Games

North West hasn’t had a girls softball team since 2010 but that changed at the Cowichan Summer Games

Most Read