Appeal hearing starts for Chilliwack dairy cow abuse sentences

Crown says sentences handed down were not long enough; two men cross appealing

Crown counsel says the sentences handed down to three young men caught on video abusing cows at a Chilliwack dairy farm were not long enough.

The men, on the other hand, say the sentences were too long.

Lawyers for both sides were in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Tuesday to hear the Crown’s appeal of the sentences to Travis Keefer, Chris Vandyke and Jamie Visser, along with a cross appeal filed by two of the men.

The proceeding was delayed, however, when it was revealed that Keefer was only officially served with court documents regarding the appeal three days before the hearing.

He showed up but told the court he needed more time to find a lawyer and prepare a defence. Crown said they tried to serve Keefer with papers in October, but he was in Dawson Creek.

The appeal was also no public mystery as lead Crown counsel Jim MacAulay told the court on June 15 an appeal of the three sentences was in the works, something reported by The Progress.

READ MORE: Chilliwack cattle abuse sentences not long enough says Crown

Keefer, Vandyke and Visser previously pleaded guilty to multiple counts of animal cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) act and one under the Wildlife Act (WLA).

On May 18, Justice Gary Cohen sentenced Keefer seven days jail, and Vandyke and Visser 60 days to be served on weekends. The men were banned from owning or handling animals for three years.

Their sentences were to be served intermittently on weekends to allow them to keep their jobs.

The three were among seven young men charged after a high-profile series of undercover videos filmed by animal right activists Mercy for Animals at Canada’s largest dairy farm, Chilliwack Cattle Sales (CCS).

MacAulay said after the sentences he would ask the appeals court to triple Vandyke’s sentence to six months, and ask for three to four months for both Visser and Keefer.

The company, Chilliwack Cattle Sales, and one director were also charged in the high-profile case. They pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay $345,000 in fines in December 2016.

The last man sentenced in the case was Brad Genereux in October. He was handed a 45-day jail sentence to be served intermittently, and an 18-month ban on caring for large animals

READ MORE: Last man sentenced in Chilliwack cattle abuse gets 45 days

Genereux’s lawyer Ed Cooper painted a picture of a “poisonous or toxic” work culture at Chilliwack Cattle Sales at the time of the incidents.

In a statement issued after the sentence, the BC Prosecution Service said after a review of Cohen’s ruling it was satisfied there were errors of law and the public interest required an appeal.

“The alleged errors of law relate to what constituted mitigating and aggravating factors,” the statement said; “and whether it was correct to equate the duration of the unlawful acts with the moral blameworthiness of the offenders.”

In essence, the Crown alleges the sentencing judge put too much emphasis on how many seconds each instance of abuse case rather than the sheer number of instances.

When told of the plan to appeal, MFA Canada vice-president Krista Hiddema said in the spring she was pleased the Crown was appealing to ask for longer sentences.

“We truly believe that the punishment must fit the crime to continue to send a clear message to the factory farming industry that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Canada,” Hiddema said via phone from Toronto.

During the appeal hearing on Nov. 14, the courtroom was filled with family and friends of the three men, along with a representative from MFA.

Crown began its case by, again, showing the undercover videos of the men hitting, punching and kicking animals violently.

The hearing was adjourned until Nov. 20 so Keefer can find legal counsel to mount his defence.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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