PSW can continue working at hard-hit Sarnia-Lambton seniors’ homes after discharge

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A personal support worker who said he’s seen at least 20 people die from COVID-19 complications while working in beleaguered Sarnia-Lambton seniors’ homes asked a judge for a discharge after being convicted of assaulting his former partner.

“I work every day trying to make people happy at my job,” the middle-aged man said Friday in a Sarnia courtroom. “That’s why I’m seeking a conditional discharge, so I can continue working as a (personal support worker).”

After listening to lawyers on both sides, Justice Deborah Austin said she felt “very comfortable” that a discharge, conditional on completing one year of probation, was in the man’s best interest, but also not contrary to the public’s interest.

“That doesn’t mean that I trivialize the issue of domestic violence at all but, in my view, the conditional discharge in this case balances (both aspects),” she said.

The incident took place in the fall of 2019 after the man told his partner he was going out with some of his friends.

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“The two engaged in a verbal confrontation, which escalated into a physical shoving,” assistant Crown attorney Aniko Coughlan said while reading an agreed statement of facts.

The argument continued into the bathroom, where he pushed her with both hands on the back side of her right shoulder, “which caused her to fall into a nearby wall,” Coughlan said.

The woman experienced shoulder soreness and got treatment about one month later.

The man, who won’t be named as he doesn’t have a criminal record due to the discharge, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of assault. Defence lawyer Don Henderson called it an “unfortunate situation that escalated, but he also questioned why it took the woman a month to get treated.

“If he did push her in the way that’s been described, one would have thought that the injuries would have been instantaneous and not taken a month to realize,” he said. “At any rate, he accepts responsibility for that.”

Coughlan said she “respectfully disagrees” with the instantaneous comment.

“We are not medically trained, and I think it’s common that individuals who are in car accidents also sometimes don’t feel the impact of that – of sore backs and sore necks – until a number of days or several weeks later,” she said.

The man said he felt the woman’s story was “greatly exaggerated” and not “100 per cent” fair.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have had to push her if she didn’t punch me in the face,” he said. “I pushed her, yes; I’m guilty of pushing her. If she didn’t punch me in the face, I wouldn’t have had to push her away.”

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Austin quashed his claim.

“Even if there was a back and forth, your use of force in pushing – which you’ve acknowledged – was an excessive and unnecessary reaction,” she said, adding it wasn’t in self-defence either.

The judge, however, also gave the man credit for working “very hard” during the year-long global pandemic.

“I think we all understand the burdens borne by (personal support workers) working hard to help people in this crisis,” she said.

The man said the emotional toll of working in long-term care during the pandemic was compounded by some personal losses in recent months.

“I have watched approximately 20 people pass away this year. I’ve lost my mother this year. I’ve lost my grandfather this year. I haven’t seen my son since March of last year,” the man said. “It’s been very hard emotionally and traumatically and with some more news that I’ve received this year.

“It’s been a very, very, very hard year and I just need this to all come to an end.”

@ObserverTerry

tbridge@postmedia.com

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