May 25th, 2024

Spitting assault lands man a jail sentence

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 9, 2021.


A 33-year-old man who spat in the face of a store’s loss prevention officer has been handed a 45-day jail sentence.
Cody Clare Matthews pleaded guilty Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court to one count of assault, stemming from an incident Feb. 20 of last year.
Court was told a woman was caught stealing from the southside Walmart store, and when the officer attempted to arrest her in the parking lot, Matthews approached them, began screaming and then spat in the officer’s face.
Crown Prosecutor Adam Zelmer pointed out Matthews has a criminal record, which includes a number of convictions for assault. At least one of those assaults was for spitting in a woman’s face in December of 2017, for which he also received a jail sentence.
The judge at the time suggested being punched might actually be preferable to being spit on.
Zelmer said Tuesday that even though the incident in February 2020 did not consist of hitting with a fist, spitting is still unlawful and considered assault.
“The case law that comments on spitting is clear that spitting is a form of violent assault,” Zelmer said.
He noted spitting, particularly in someone’s face during the course of their duty, requires specific denunciation and deterrence and warrants a period of custody.
“It sends a message that, yes, it may not be the same as being punched in the face, it’s a different form of assault and it’s still a serious form of physical assault.”
Zelmer said the offence could have been even worse had it occurred only a couple of months later, after the COVID pandemic struck.
“At least this occurred outside the boundaries of the early days of the pandemic, where truly spitting in someone’s face would have been, I respectively submit, a different action four months later than it was in Februrary 2020.”
Judge Erin Olsen agreed with the joint submission by the Crown and defence for a 45-day jail sentence, and added her own point of view on the assault.
“Spitting is gross, plain and simple. It is disgusting.”
Olsen said spitting on another person – in this case an impulsive and immature act – places the victim at risk for health complications and other problems, and noted judges take a “dim view” of that form of assault.
Lethbridge lawyer Vince Guinan said Matthews is remorseful and appreciates the significant and serious nature of spitting on another person.
Guinan said his client has suffered from drug addiction for several years, which has led to many of his property-related offences. However, he has filed an application to attend drug treatment court and hopes to deal with his addictions and resolve additional criminal charges he currently faces.

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