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Comox Valley man gets five-plus years for box-cutter attack on his ex

Break-in, aggravated assault on former spouse were most serious charges against Clinton Armstrong
A Comox Valley man was sentenced in Supreme Court on Monday for a brutal attack on his former spouse in early 2020. Record file photo

A Comox Valley man is to spend more than five years in prison for two incidents involving his former common-law spouse, including a brutal attack with a box-cutter.

Justice Anthony Saunders rendered his decision in Courtenay Supreme Court Monday afternoon, with concurrent sentences for nine charges against Clinton G. Armstrong. The most serious were for a break-and-enter count under the home invasion subsection and aggravated assault. For the former charge, Armstrong received eights years, and for the latter, he received seven.

“This was a grave crime with a high degree of moral culpability,” the judge said.

Saunders credited Armstrong with one-and-half days for each day spent in custody, which reduced the eight-year total to five years and 128 days. The sentences for the other counts, which included unlawful confinement, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, mischief to property and breaches of conditions, ranged from one day to two years, so the judge considered them as time-served. As part of the sentence, Armstrong has to provide a DNA sample and faces a 10-year weapons ban.

Armstrong’s lawyer, Bobak Movassaghi, had been seeking a sentence for the various offences in the range of four-and-a-half years, while Crown counsel Bob Richardson had asked for 10 to 11 years.

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The first incident surrounded a dispute in December 2019 when Armstrong and his spouse were planning to separate. During the dispute, she called 911 and he slapped her. At a couple of points during the sentencing, Armstrong, who was appearing on video, interrupted to dispute the account at which point the judge warned him.

“Mr. Armstrong, you will be quiet, sir,” Saunders said.

The more serious charges stemmed from an attack in February 2020 when Armstrong broke into the home to attack his former spouse. While he had threatened to kill her at various points, he changed his tone to say he would only maim her. This, along with his choice of a box-cutter as opposed to a weapon like a knife, played a role in Armstrong’s being found guilty of the lesser charge of aggravated assault instead of attempted murder.

Armstrong used the box-cutter to inflict multiple gashes and wounds on his former spouse. During the incident, he also damaged the interior of the house and the victim’s car, though at trial he reported blacking out on the day of the attack.

“I have described the offence. It is of a grave nature,” the judge said.

While finding Armstrong not guilty of attempted murder, Saunders stressed the seriousness of the attack when delivering his sentence, noting particularly situations of intimate partner violence. He also said the victim in her impact statement expressed fears for her safety once Armstrong finishes his time in custody.

“She has a difficult time trusting people,” the judge added.

Saunders referred to case law when delivering the sentence, noting principles such as proportionality and parity with sentences in similar cases. While he noted Armstrong had a past history with relationship violence, he said the 13-year relationship was not marked by a history of physical violence, though he also cited many aggravating factors to consider, beyond the nature of the attack, including “victim-blaming,” posing a high risk for intimate partner violence, control issues and an unwillingness to take responsibility. As far as mitigating factors in Armstrong’s case, Saunders added, “There is little to say.”

(This story has been edited to clarify the amount of credit given for time-served.)

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