A Fort McPherson woman who assaulted RCMP officers three times this year has been sentenced to just over three months in jail.
Deputy Judge Carol Snell said 21-year-old Julie Marie Norman was “highly intoxicated” each time, but the judge told Norman that was “cold comfort for the police officers that you assaulted.”
“Those assaults were serious. Kicking the officer could have resulted in significant injury and spitting on officers is both disgusting and also dangerous,” Snell said at a sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
In February, Norman kicked an RCMP officer in his groin and punched another in her chest as they tried to remove her from a Fort McPherson home whose residents had asked for her and others to leave.
Norman was found intoxicated and barefoot in the bathroom. Crown prosecutor Sarah Arngna’naaq said she punched one officer while they tried to help her find her shoes.
“RCMP spent several minutes trying to convince her to put her shoes on so she wouldn’t have to walk in the snow without any shoes on,” said Arngna’naaq. Norman, said the prosecutor, kicked her feet and swore in response.
Norman had only a month earlier been convicted of assaulting an RCMP officer. Ten days before the February incident, she had violated her probation order.
Last month, Norman – again intoxicated – spat on the faces of two officers as they tried to remove her from a different house in Fort McPherson, Arngna’naaq said.
“Spitting is not only a disgusting way to assault somebody, it puts the individual’s health and safety in jeopardy,” said the prosecutor. “Particularly right now, when we’re in a pandemic where Covid-19 is transferred through saliva.”
In that August 23 incident, male and female RCMP officers had been trying to persuade Norman to put on some pants. She spat on them as they tried to cover her up while escorting her to a patrol vehicle.
Arngna’naaq asked Deputy Judge Snell to impose a total jail sentence of 135 days for three counts of assaulting a peace officer, breach of probation, and breach of a release order, to be followed by one year of supervised probation.
In exchange for Norman pleading guilty to those charges, the Crown withdrew seven other counts.
Difficult to find appropriate help
Defence lawyer Alanhea Vogt countered with a request for a total of 90 days, plus six to nine months’ probation.
While Norman takes responsibility for her actions, she remembers none of them as she was so heavily intoxicated, said her lawyer.
“Miss Norman tells me that she has struggled with alcohol for much of her life,” said Vogt, noting an earlier pre-sentence report indicated there was “a lot” of alcohol abuse with family members.
“As Miss Norman states, it was all around her entire life.”
Norman and her siblings were apprehended by Child and Family Services in Fort McPherson when she was three months old “due to alcohol abuse, neglect, and violence in the home,” the court heard.
In the following years, Norman had moved through more than 80 placements with foster families – including some relatives – until she “aged out” of that system when she turned 19.
When Norman was 15 years old, she was sent for treatment in Fort Smith and later in Regina.
“When I asked her about these times in treatment, she shared with me that she didn’t find it particularly helpful as whenever she returned [to Fort McPherson] she immediately started drinking again,” said Vogt. How to help people on their return from treatment to small communities has long been a problem the NWT has struggled to solve.
Norman has been diagnosed with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Norman recognizes she is an alcoholic and has tried to obtain counselling in her community, said the lawyer, but the pandemic had made that hard.
“She has found it difficult to find the appropriate care that can help her get to the root of issues,” said Vogt, “but that is what she is looking for.”
“I would just like to apologize for my actions to the officers back in McPherson and to you in the courts,” said Norman, speaking from North Slave Correctional Complex, when offered the opportunity to speak.
“I’m trying to control my addictions, my alcoholism, and these actions would have not happened if I had not been drinking.”
Deputy Judge Snell – a retired former chief judge of Saskatchewan, covering a vacancy on the NWT bench – sentenced Norman to a total jail term of 105 days, reduced by 29 days for time spent in remand, leaving 76 days to serve.
That will be followed by one year of supervised probation and counselling as directed.