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Justice
Yellowknife

Man who choked partner was ‘afraid of the victim,’ says lawyer


Warning: This report contains descriptions of violence, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.

After she spotted some fresh hickeys on her lover’s neck, an expected late-morning “booty call” ended up in a serious scrap on the kitchen floor and RCMP being called.

The woman was assaulted and choked before the couple left the Yellowknife apartment and continued arguing on the street. Bryce Burles was arrested shortly after.

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It wasn’t the first time police were needed to intervene in the “on-again off-again” relationship. Between September 2020 and April 2021, the couple were both charged with inflicting various degrees of violence and mischief against each other.

This week, Burles faced a NWT Territorial Court judge, having been convicted after trial of assault and mischief for the September 17, 2020 incident at his mother’s apartment.

Burle’s lawyer, Jay Bran, raised some eyebrows in the courtroom — where the victim, some friends, and Burles’s mother and sister sat  — when he said his 27-year-old client is also a victim of intimate partner violence. 

Bran said the woman who was the victim in the September attack, was accused of violence against Burle last year and went through Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court. Records show the woman had shown up uninvited at Burle’s door with two friends on January 28, 2021, ransacked his apartment, and threw a mug at Burles’s head, causing a deep laceration. RCMP photos show Burle in the detachment with streams of dried blood on his face from a cut on the top of his forehead.

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“He’s afraid of the victim in this case, an offender who assaulted him in the past, and has gone through the court system herself,” defence lawyer Bran said, adding that Burles’s next move is to obtain a peace bond through the courts.

“We’re not here to victim bash, we’re simply here to tell the court my client is afraid of her. She still wants him as a part of her life. And it’s not something that he wants.”

Having completed the requirements of the Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court — an alternative court which allows accused people to take responsibility for their behaviour — the 23-year-old woman received an absolute discharge.

“[She] identified trust and respect as the most important to her in relationships … she learned a lot about herself and her triggers,” her case manager wrote in a letter submitted to the court at that time.

On Wednesday, Judge Jeannie Scott found Burles guilty of assault causing bodily harm by choking, and mischief under $5,000. He was found not guilty of forcible confinement.

On the morning of September 17, 2020, Burles and the woman communicated by phone and it was decided she would visit Burles at his mother’s apartment, at the west end of 52 Avenue, at around 11am for a sexual encounter.

“It was understood by both that the accused’s mother would be returning to the apartment at 12 o’clock,” Scott said. “The two moved into the bedroom, where the complainant discovered the accused had hickeys on his neck. 

“The complainant became angry … she still loved the accused at the time and she felt disrespected by him. She [said] she wanted to leave and she tried to open the door, but the accused physically blocked her way and said he wanted to see her cell phone.”

The woman testified at trial that Burles shoved her and she fell onto the kitchen floor.

Burles then got on top of her and put both of his hands around her neck “and pressed as such she was not able to move her head or breath,” Scott said, noting it left bruising and red marks. “He was still asking to see her phone, she was still upset and crying.”

Searching for any way to get out of the apartment, the woman agreed to go with Burles to her car to look at her cell phone. 

“He told her to dry her eyes and that she needed to stop crying before they could leave the apartment,” the judge detailed. 

The pair walked to the woman’s rental car — which she needed after Burles broke a no-contact order and vandalized her pickup truck last April — and drove about two blocks, when they stopped. 

Burles, unhappy with what he saw on the phone, threw the vehicle’s electronic key fob and the phone on the ground, breaking both.

Judge Scott said the woman had a second cell phone in the car, which she used to called police.

Burles ran back to the apartment and “took six beers and started drinking them” as he suspected police would be arriving.

When police did arrive, they arrested Burles, as he had a number of outstanding charges for breaching court orders. 

As of Wednesday, Burles had accumulated 8.5 months in remand credit. As Scott sentenced him to seven months jail time for the two charges — taking into account his five-page criminal record — he was released on time served.

Burles will be on probation for one year, during which time he will have to take counselling as directed, not possess firearms for 10 years, and provide a DNA sample for the national databank. He is also to have no contact or communication with the woman.

“I would like nothing to do with this woman … because she’s using the court and police to do her dirty work, honestly,” Burles said, via video from the North Slave Correctional Complex. “She stays away from me and I stay away from her — that’s the best way this is going to work out.”

As no receipts were provided by the woman, her claim for $1,500 for the phone and $250 for the rental car key fob were rejected by the judge.

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