A 61-year-old aboriginal man with seven convictions for sexually assaulting girls aged 7-10 will keep his dangerous offender designation, B.C.’s Court of Appeal ruled unanimously Nov. 21.
William Garfield Garnot has 56 criminal convictions including theft, dangerous driving, perjury, obstruction and frequent breaches of orders and has spent 30 years in prison.
In June 1995, Garnot, who has a Metis and Cree background, pleaded guilty to five sexual assault offenses that occurred between 1988 and 1991. All but one of the children was related to his then-wife, and most of the assaults took place in the family’s home – specifically when the children were sleeping at night.
In 1999, he also pleaded guilty to the 1998 sexual assault of a ten‑year‑old relative. The offence occurred about 18 months after his release from prison on the five other sexual assaults.
The dangerous offender designation and indeterminate jail sentence was made on conviction of the 2001 aggravated sexual assault of an adult woman in Prince George. Garnot struck the woman on the head with a board and had intercourse with her while she was unconscious.
The court said there is evidence of other uncharged sexual assaults.
Garnot sought to have the dangerous offender designation overturned in favour of a long-term designation with a determinate sentence.
The sentencing judge heard from a psychologist Dr. Lynne Piché that, “represented a high risk to re‑offend, both for sexual violence and violence generally,” Justice Mary Newbury said in the appeal court decision.
The sentencing court had received a Gladue report, which is a pre-sentencing report a court can request when considering sentencing an offender of aboriginal background.
Garnot’s report detailed a story of poverty, crime, alcohol and sexual abuse from his uncle when he was between six and eight years old, the ruling said.
“He reported experiencing racism from non‑Aboriginal children at school and eventually attended a school for what he called ‘slow learners.’ At about age 10 or 11, he was taken to a residential school in what he thought was the Seattle area, but his time there ended when the school caught fire,” the court said.
He was then shuttled between family members.
Newbury said Garnot’s lawyer ,T.J. Russell, argued that under a long-term offender designation, Garnot’s risk of reoffending could be reduced to an acceptable level. He argued Garnot’s many years of incarceration and having been a victim of discrimination in the justice system should be considered.
“The implications of Mr. Russell’s argument regarding a higher tolerance of risk in cases involving aboriginal offenders are in my opinion unacceptable,” Newbury said. “No judge should be asked to rule that a dangerous offender should be released into the community before the risk of his or her risk of reoffending has been reduced to an acceptable level.
“The order declaring Mr. Garnot to be a dangerous offender was justified and that the court below did not err in finding on the evidence that his risk could not be managed at an acceptable level in the community following a determinate sentence,” Newbury said.