WINDSOR, N.S. — She's angry but composed — until she can't hold it in anymore. The tears start. Her little girl was stronger than she was, she admits.
The mother of one of Garnett Frederick Smith’s victims, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, said her and her daughter’s experience with the legal system has rocked their faith in the law’s ability to protect the people it’s supposed to.
For the purposes of this article, the mother will be referred to as Jane.
Jane’s daughter was at the Hants Exhibition Arena in 2014 with her family, when, as described in court documents, Smith, who was running the skate sharpening kiosk, asked her if she could keep a secret. He proceeded to pull down his pants, exposing his penis. Jane’s daughter was under 10 at the time of the incident.
She fled to the bathroom, eventually telling her mother what happened, which led to charges and an eventual conviction.
Smith received three year’s probation with strict conditions and 90 days in custody, intermittently served on weekends, for that incident and another offence in Windsor against another girl, also under 10-years-old, which involved exposing his genitals, invitation to touching, and touching.
Jane says she was floored by the conviction, saying it didn’t go far enough.
During the trial, Smith’s lawyer argued that his mental health was a contributing factor of the events.
Described as having early onset dementia, Smith was said to have been unable to control his inhibitions or regulate his behaviour. Testimony from two doctors in this field said Smith exhibited signs of this disease, which led to the lower sentencing in Judge Alan Tufts’ decision.
Smith was denied a not criminally responsible finding, but Tufts acknowledged that, at the time of the offences, Smith did suffer from a brain dysfunction.
In the decision, Tufts addressed whether or not he thought Smith would re-offend.
“What is unknown is the risk for the future. The offender did not offer any sexual risk assessment which is common in these types of offences. He is not obliged to do so. Dr. Murphy suggested his behaviour or symptoms are being managed. This would suggest his risk to commit other offences in the future is reduced,” the decision read.
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Smith was charged with allegedly exposing his genitals to a female minor on May 28, 2018, shortly after completing his sentence.
Smith was not present in the courtroom on June 12 for the latest charges, but his lawyer, Chrystal MacAulay, plead not guilty on his behalf and elected for a trial at provincial court.
The trial date has been set for Oct. 29 as it was the closest open full day available, and both lawyers agreed a full day would be required, given the number of witnesses involved.
Crown lawyer Bill Fergusson said Smith’s previous sentence has been fully served and he was released on strict parole conditions when the latest incident occurred.
Fergusson also said Smith is no longer living in Windsor, although he couldn’t confirm what community Smith currently resides in.
Tufts, who sat on Smith’s previous matter, will not be part of this trial.
When Jane found out about the new charges, she was upset, but not surprised.
“Three months after his sentencing and where are we at?” she asked.
“I feel like the system has failed our children. There needs to be answers — somebody needs to be accountable,” she continued.
“People need to know that this is how things were handled.”
Smith was released on bail with strict conditions following his most recent arrest.
“How do you release somebody who was on probation for three years for sexual offences after they’re picked up for doing something like that?” she asked.
When he was sentenced on the original charges, the judge’s decision noted that Smith was said to have been on an updated medication regime and undergoing treatment.
Jane said she’s not convinced he wasn't aware of his actions.
“When you look at the big picture, he’s making statements to the victims like ‘don’t tell your mommy,’ or ‘this is a secret,’” Jane said.
“To me, that means you know what you’re doing,” she continued.
“I was in the building; he sharpened my skates right before it happened,” she said. “He knew I was there. It doesn’t make any sense... People have to be responsible for their actions.”
The other complainant in the initial case, a girl, also under 10, who also can’t be identified due to a publication ban, was victimized multiple times. All of the offences from Smith’s initial charges took place between June and October 2014.
A lasting impact
“Every time I drove to the courthouse, the anxiety that I had, the pressure that I felt, just driving there was immense,” Jane said. “I couldn’t function for three to four months after this happened. I couldn’t move out of bed. I couldn’t eat.”
Jane says she’s seen a counsellor because of the incident.
“It’s a huge thing to go through as a mother. You carry your babies, you give birth to them, you feed them and I didn’t even leave her; I was in the rink, doing my job as a parent and this happened,” she said, her voice breaking. “There are no words to describe that. It leaves me broken.”
Jane said she’s lost faith in the justice system as a result of the whole experience.
“It’s like people who’ve lost faith in the church, they just don’t go anymore, (they) just remove themselves,” she said.
“It’s an open wound. I don’t feel like these children were ever being protected during this.”
Jane says she tells her daughter about what’s happening in the court so that she’s aware of how things are done.
“Her strength carried me, and I know my strength is what got her there, but in the end, her strength saved me,” she said.
“I drove my kids to school two years straight, because I was emotionally so upset. I couldn’t let them do anything. I’m so scared,” she continued.
“If it wasn’t for her, I honestly don’t know where I would be.”
The new set of charges against Smith have not been proven in court.