Safety concerns over Bobbitt delay hearing

Sentencing and a dangerous offender hearing for a man who pled guilty to a vicious attack on a Penticton woman two years ago may be moved.

Sentencing and a dangerous offender hearing for a man who pled guilty to a vicious attack on a Penticton woman two years ago may be moved to Kelowna due to security concerns.

David Wesley Bobbitt pled guilty earlier this year to aggravated assault, two counts of unlawful confinement, aggravated sexual assault, two counts of uttering threats and assault with a weapon. It was during the August long weekend in 2011 that a 22-year-old woman was severely beaten and confined to a bed in Bobbitt’s second-hand store that was located on Ellis Street. Her toddler son, who was with the woman throughout the assault, was unharmed.

On Tuesday at the Penticton courthouse, Justice Geoff Barrow indicated the sheriffs were concerned about security for the sentencing and dangerous offender hearing scheduled to take place over four weeks beginning June 2, 2014. Bobbitt’s initial appearance in court after he was arrested was referred to by sheriffs as a “circus.”  Bobbitt mouthed words to the packed courtroom of the victim’s family and friends and one man stood and yelled obscenities at Bobbitt from the gallery. This continued later as sheriff’s escorted Bobbitt from the jail lock up outside to a waiting transport vehicle. The area is caged in by a tall fence but it didn’t stop the father of the toddler who was witness to the assault from charging it. Bobbitt yelled out to the man, “I’ll get you later.” During the preliminary inquiry in June 2012 those entering the gallery had to walk through a metal detector. Sheriffs told attendees they would not tolerate any outbursts. One man was warned he would be escorted out of the courtroom if he continued to stare and smile at Bobbitt.

Justice Geoff Barrow said on Tuesday that sheriffs would have to transport Bobbitt through public space at the courthouse three to four times a day should the hearing take place in Penticton. The court house lock up is located on the ground floor and Bobbitt would be moved privately upstairs but then would have to walk across a public hallway to Supreme Court. Between securing that area and potentially another metal detector set up, it could leave the sheriff’s office short-handed. Currently there are five staff members that oversee three courtrooms, transport prisoners from six RCMP detachments to the courthouse and to correctional facilities outside of the South Okanagan.

Crown Counsel Deb Drissell expressed concern about the witnesses expected to be called for the dangerous offender hearing who are  “very fragile” and  moving the hearing to Kelowna would be an inconvenience. As well, it would mean witnesses and their families attending would incur travel costs to Kelowna.

Justice Barrow put the issue over until Monday. He said he would like to hear more about the lawyers concerns before making a decision.

-With files from Percy N. Hebért/Western News

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