Spanking with kindling results in loss of adopted son

'It (a spanking) can't be done out of out anger and emotion,' judge says

Cam Fortems / Kamloops Daily News
December 19, 2012 01:00 AM

A father whose adopted son was taken away after he administered a spanking with a piece of kindling was handed a conditional discharge Wednesday.

Lawrence Lepp pleaded guilty earlier this year in B.C. Supreme Court to assault following the incident on Dec. 7, 2010.

Crown prosecutor Joel Gold said events began when a school bus driver phoned Lawrence at his home in Pritchard, telling him the boy was misbehaving and needed to be taken home.

Records were entered into court showing the 12-year-old had behavioural problems and was abused by his biological parents. He was taken in by Lepp and his wife, who adopted the eight-year-old boy and his sister.

Lepp met the bus, entering and pulling his son out by the collar and into his pickup.

At home, about a two-minute drive away, he took the boy to a woodshed, where he hit him several times, while still clothed, on the buttocks with a piece of kindling.

Afterward the 50-year-old trucker hugged him and told his son he loved him, but warned his behaviour was escalating and would soon mean he could no longer live with the family.

The boy reported the incident to a social worker. He was examined at hospital and found with bruising on his buttocks. The Ministry of Children and Family Development permanently removed him from the Lepp's care, at the request of the boy.

During a sentence hearing, the Crown and defence lawyers argued whether Lepp deserved a criminal record.

Crown lawyer Joel Gold argued for a suspended sentence of one year, including terms that Lepp take counseling as directed by a probation office.

"It (a spanking) can't be done out of out anger and emotion," Gold said, arguing the court needs to send a message about overzealous use of physical punishment.

But defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen noted his client has no criminal record and does significant charity work in Guatemala. He said his client "crossed the line" while dealing out corporal punishment but doesn't deserve a criminal record.

Lepp, like many of his generation, was spanked with a wooden spoon as a child.

"Society accepts people can go through life and sometimes they stumble," Jensen said.

"It's OK. We don't have to punish them - denunciation and deterrence - to the point they have a criminal record and things are taken away in their life."

Jensen said a criminal record would mean Lepp could no longer drive truck in the United States. He would also be restricted from charity work overseas.

He also said Lepp already suffered "the most punitive thing to any father - losing his son."

Supreme Court justice Robert Powers accepted the defence argument, noting Lepp's otherwise good character.

"The situation was impassioned and a one-time loss of control by a father who struggled with a child he cared for."

Lepp will serve a one-year probation term. If he completes it without incident, he will escape a permanent record.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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