A Yellowknife man who left a male victim with life-altering injuries after hitting him in the head with a cast iron cooking appliance was sent to jail Tuesday following “anxious consideration” by an NWT judge.
Twenty-three-year-old Daniel Hache, who pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm, was handed a one-year sentence by Justice Louise Charbonneau, who was left to decide whether to accept a conditional sentence – house arrest – or the one-and-a-half-year sentence recommended by both Hache’s lawyer and the prosecution.
She called the decision an “extremely difficult,” one to make.
In June 2017, Hache and the victim, along with the victim’s partner and children, were on an island on Prelude Lake building a cabin. That night, Hache and the victim’s partner stayed up drinking while the victim went to sleep. Hache then left the island on a Sea-Doo to pick up another woman at a nearby campsite.
The watercraft partially sunk en route and Hache called for the victim’s partner to retrieve him, which she did.
After the rescue, Hache accused the woman of taking too long to reach him and an argument ensued. The victim woke up and physically confronted his partner, telling her to stop yelling.
Hache, according to an agreed statement of facts, witnessed the victim strike his partner multiple times. The victim then approached Hache with his arms raised.
Hache picked up a nearby pie iron – a cast iron appliance often used to cook food over a campfire – and struck the victim in the head.
After the assault, the victim fell and hit his head against either a part of the fireplace or a rock. He suffered serious injuries, including a depressed fracture, which left a hole in his skull.
The victim, who must wear a special head covering to protect the hole, could only verbalize a few words at a time in the months that followed the assault. His still suffers from seizures and the right side of his body remains numb. The tone of his voice has been altered.
He’s on a waiting list to have his skull patched with a titanium mesh, which could minimize the seizures he endures.
“(The assault) caused an immeasurable emotional impact on (the victim) and his family,” said Charbonneau, who called comments made in the victim impact statements “heartbreaking.”
“The consequences have been catastrophic, life-changing and permanent,” she added.
Hache was originally charged with aggravated assault – a conviction that carries a maximum sentence of 14-years – but pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of assault causing bodily harm.
In pleading guilty to the lesser charge, Hache effectively admitted that while he was acting defensively, the amount of force he employed was unreasonable and disproportionate.
Charbonneau accepted Hache was acting defensively but said by picking up the pie iron and introducing a weapon – an “extremely serious action” – the consequences were “entirely foreseeable” and could have “easily resulted in death.”
Charbonneau weighed Hache’s circumstances and background as an Indigenous offender – he is of Metis descent – along with his status as a youthful, first time offender. She said there’s no indication Hache is a violent person, but said a lenient sentence would send the wrong message about the seriousness of using weapons. There is a need to denounce and deter such conduct, she said.
Hache, who chose not to address the court, told the author of his pre-sentence report that he did not wish to apologize, because it would not have been sincere. The comment, Charbonneau said, led her to believe Hache may still feel justified in carrying out the assault and called the remark “a bit troubling.”
Charbonneau added some will see her sentence as too harsh, while others will see it as lenient, but said she hopes it will mark “one more step in the healing process,” for the victim.
Hache was ordered to pay just over $7,800 to the victim, who listened to Tuesday’s court proceedings over the phone.