A Pelly Crossing family is upset that a man has been given a suspended sentence after a frightening incident in 2014.
Adam Van Bibber, 36, was sentenced Tuesday in Yukon Supreme Court in Whitehorse for one count of unlawfully entering a dwelling-house with the intent to commit a serious criminal offence.
He received a suspended sentence and two years’ probation with conditions.
Family members of complainant Gina Gill were visibly upset when the sentence was read, some leaving the courtroom in tears.
The case stems from an incident on the evening of June 18, 2014, which Gill described as a violent home invasion by her former partner.
Gill’s supporters filled two pews in the courtroom Tuesday morning as she and her daughters read victim impact statements.
“I am thankful to have such strong support,” said Gill of her family and the Selkirk First Nation.
She described her relationship with Van Bibber as one of escalating abuse, saying the incident has taken a toll on her and her family.
“I couldn’t talk about the incident without crying,” one of Gill’s pre-teen daughters told the court.
“The image of my mom’s bloody face comes into my mind. Ever since that night, I faint every time I see blood.”
A support worker read the second daughter’s statement. It noted that Van Bibber was able to move back into his home near the family, and even sat beside them at a community meeting while a no contact order was in place.
Van Bibber looked straight ahead at the wall with his hands clasped while the statements were read.
When permitted to make a statement, he faced Justice Beverley Browne and apologized to Gill and her daughters. He said the incident occurred during a difficult time in his life, and he has since worked on staying sober.
“I’m just looking to move forward with my life,” he said.
Gill’s family appeared unimpressed by the apology.
Justice Browne said she hoped the apology and Van Bibber’s commitment to change were sincere.
“The most important part of an apology is that it will not happen again,” she said.
Gill told the Star Monday afternoon that the 2 1/2-year court process has been very difficult on her and her family.
“The whole thing, it’s been a gong show,” she said.
“I have gotten little to no support.”
She said she was not even aware that sentencing had begun Monday morning until it was mentioned to her by a colleague at work.
“I came to work and the front desk lady came up to me and said, ‘how many of you are going to be in the room?’
“And I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” she explained.
Gill immediately called the courthouse and was eventually connected to the sentencing proceedings via phone.
But not being told about Van Bibber’s sentencing, she was unprepared to submit victim impact statements.
“The Crown lawyer was trying to say everything was all good,” said Gill.
“He has been very unhelpful to me this whole process.”
Crown prosecutor David McWhinnie said in an interview he thinks the mix-up was due to a change in court support workers in the case.
“The pass-off didn’t go smoothly, and Gina ended up not hearing about it until it was almost too late,” McWhinnie said.
The Gill family was also supposed to appear at the sentencing by video from Pelly Crossing. But due to someone being sick, McWhinnie said, it was never arranged.
Gill worked Monday afternoon to prepare statements. She made the three-hour drive to Whitehorse for Tuesday morning.
“I’m frantically trying to contact support people to get my support letters because right now it looks like I’m the one who made the mistake,” she said.
Gill said she feels the court has been more supportive of Van Bibber than complainants throughout the case.
“It’s been horrid since the beginning, and I honestly see why women don’t come forward,” she said.
She thinks one reason may be the pull the Van Bibber name has in the Yukon and the fact that he has secured a lawyer from Vancouver.
“They’re really advocating that he is middle class and I am just nobody,” she said.
“They’ve been holding his name up as a very good name. But portraying off of somebody else’s success, I don’t think it’s quite fair.”
She also said the Crown did not push to have the sentence heard in Pelly Crossing rather than in Whitehorse.
“They’re not pushing my wishes even when they said they would, and I was reassured that they would say that,” she said. But McWhinnie said the formal application to have the sentencing in Pelly Crossing was refused by the court.
In making her sentencing decision, Justice Browne said she had to weigh the seriousness of the crime and the circumstances of the accused.
She noted many support letters were filed in favour of Van Bibber but that Gill’s daughters were clearly affected by the incident.
“We need to raise our kids to be strong and confident; they need to be able to trust people,” she told Van Bibber, stressing that she hopes he stays sober.
“You’ve used all of your credits this time, so if you’re back in court, pack your bags, because you’re going to jail.”
The conditions of Van Bibber’s probation order include:
• having no contact with the family;
• completing 125 hours of community service;
• writing a formal apology to the girls; and
• not possessing nor consuming alcohol.
Van Bibber was originally charged with co-accused David Grennan on eight counts, including breaking and entering with intent, assault causing bodily harm, and mischief.
There were three complainants named in the indictment, including Gill.
One of the breaking and entering with intent charges was dismissed, and Grennan was acquitted of all other charges.
Van Bibber was acquitted of six charges.