Shawn Birt of Trenton has been sentenced to six years and 90 days in a federal penitentiary
after being found guilty in October of aggravated assault.
The charges stem from a violent attack in August of 2014 in which Quinte West OPP found Birt’s estranged girlfriend, 52-year-old Sheila Woodcox, on the driveway of her home near Carrying Place.
She was bleeding and had suffered almost two dozen stab wounds from knives and scissors.
Birt and Woodcox had had a very stormy on-and-off relationship for years and Birt was jealous over her supposed involvement with another man.
Birt, 47, was very drunk the night of the attack.
At Quinte Courthouse in Belleville Friday, an emotional Woodcox read out her Victim Impact Statement. Woodcox said she can’t trust people anymore and is unable to travel around Trenton without a close family member by her side.
Her income has dropped significantly from her days as a CIBC employee as she can no longer work.
Physically, Woodcox has constant pain, swelling, and numbness in one leg and foot and often falls due to balance problems.
She told court she had 30 scars and 113 stitches and/or staples because of the incident.
Woodcox’s daughter Erica was unable to read out her Victim Impact Statement, as she was overcome with emotion.
Crown Attorney Jason Nicol read part of her statement instead.
She had written a letter to Shawn Birt, stating he had mistreated her while in a drunken rage. Also in the letter she thanked Birt for making her family stronger than it ever was.
In his submission, Birt’s lawyer Mark Ertel suggested a sentence of four to six years in a Federal Penetentiary minus 12 to 18 months credit for time spent under house arrest.
He suggested Birt had been under the strictest of conditions for about two out of the three years of house arrest and said he was an excellent candidate for rehabilitation because outside of this attack he’d been a productive and responsible citizen with no prior criminal record.
Birt has voluntarily been undertaking treatment for alcoholism.
Court heard that Birt’s family had paid $46,000 for bail related costs and thousands more for addictions counselling.
For his part, Crown Attorney Nicol asked the judge to sentence Birt to nine years in prison, minus a short time for serving some house arrest under strict conditions.
Nicol said Birt was in a drunken rage and ready for violence at Woodcox’s house and committed a “horrific, sadistic, and prolonged attack on a defenceless woman.”
The Crown said Birt’s drinking was no excuse and should not be a mitigating factor in his sentencing.
Birt stood to address the court and had to pause several times as he choked back his emotions.
Birt took issue with the prosecution’s position that he had shown no remorse after the assault.
Turning and making eye contact with Ms. Woodcox, he apologized to her and her family and admitted responsibility for her wounds and her subsequent suffering.
He also apologized to his own family.
Superior Court Justice John Johnston called the attack against Ms. Woodcox “brutal.”
“Two of 23 stab wounds were very close to arteries and she is lucky to be alive. Domestic violence in our society is a major problem and cannot be tolerated. Mr. Birt cannot hide behind alcohol as a reason for this attack.”
“The victim, Ms. Woodcox and her family will suffer pain because of the assault for the rest of their lives. She will live in fear for all of her life.”
Justice Johnston was unimpressed with Birt’s sentencing day admission of responsibility for the attack and his apologies.
“Why wouldn’t he have accepted responsibility much earlier in the process with the weight of evidence piled against him?”
To Birt’s credit, the judge said, he was 47 and a first time offender who had lived a responsible and successful life.
“Mr. Birt and his very supportive family regularly gave back to the community, and he has admitted to being an alcoholic and sought out treatment on his own soon after the incident.”
Johnston said Birt was a good candidate for rehabilitation, but still worried about his not accepting responsibility much earlier.
“A guilty plea almost always takes time off of a jail sentence and would have saved Ms. Woodcox and everyone involved the pain of going through a criminal trial.”
Birt served 17 days in jail immediately after being arrested and then was granted bail and put on house arrest. Two of the nearly three years of house arrest were served under very strict conditions.
Birt did not breach any of the conditions.