Greater Victoria man sentenced to four years in prison for repeatedly strangling, confining girlfriend

The Victoria courthouse. File photo.

Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some readers.

A Greater Victoria man has been sentenced to four years in prison for repeatedly strangling and confining his girlfriend nearly five years ago.

Tyler Denniston was convicted on seven counts: three for assault, three for unlawful confinement and one count of assault causing bodily harm on a former intimate partner who is protected by a publication ban.

“A four-year sentence is not insignificant. It’s certainly one we don’t often see,” said Sgt. Jon Cawsey with Saanich Police’s domestic abuse unit.

“It’s great to see that there will be some accountability, and there’s also some great programming that can come out of it for the offender in the federal system.”

Crown categorized the details in the case as ‘harrowing’: A jealous boyfriend beating, strangling, and then confining his then-girlfriend four times over the period of 10 months in 2018.

According to the courts, the former MMA fighter attacked his girlfriend on four separate occasions over 10 months in Greater Victoria and Ucluelet. Two of the incidents happened after Denniston saw something on the woman’s phone that angered him. One instance was triggered because his girlfriend had a missed call from another man.

Crown categorized Denniston’s actions as “cruel and terrorizing,” ranging from threatening to break her fingers, strangling her until she blacked out, beating her head against the back of a couch multiple times, and then confining her, once for 24 hours in a basement with no food or water.

In her victim impact statement, Denniston’s former girlfriend detailed the lasting psychological and physiological impact of the attacks, like thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. She told the courtroom she lives in constant fear.

“I cannot even relax in my own home,” said Denniston’s former girlfriend.

Denniston has a long criminal record. His previous convictions include drug trafficking and a slew of other serious violent offences. Among them is the confinement and assault of several intimate partners. CHEK News spoke with one of them, who attended court Monday in support of the victim in this case.

“It’s actually shocking how similar the abuse was. Not only did I also get brought to Ucluelet, and not only was I also abused in Ucluelet, but I was also confined in multiple circumstances,” Kendall Parkinson told CHEK News.

Denniston was sentenced to 210 days in jail for assault causing bodily harm to Parkinson on Nov. 15, 2018. He got credit for time served, and four months later, he confined the victim in the case at hand.

Also summarized to the court was the Gladue Report, used in sentencing Indigenous offenders. It outlines the intergenerational trauma Denniston has experienced as a Metis man, from a grandmother who escaped residential school and denied her Indigenous roots, separating Denniston from his culture and community.

His psychiatric report details that Denniston was born into poverty to an abusive father who ran over his only sister. The report also states that his brother sexually assaulted him, his mother died young, and he was effectively abandoned by his father into foster care.

After the story aired, Denniston’s father and a friend of his brother contacted CHEK News disputing that the father abused and abandoned Denniston or that the brother sexually assaulted him.

“Were it not for that background, Denniston may not be here today,” Crown counsellor Paul Pearson acknowledged.

The court also heard that Denniston’s alleged sobriety was received with much disagreement from the gallery, causing the judge to issue a warning on decorum. His sobriety was acknowledged as something that may reduce his risk to reoffend.

In contrast, a psychiatric assessment presented to court shows Denniston lacks empathy towards his victims in his refusal to address the intimate partner violence he’s committed. The report also details his inability to deal with anger and abandonment.

All that information led Crown to argue Denniston is at high risk of reoffending in terms of intimate partner violence, especially when he perceives an imminent to the relationship.

Denniston did stand to address the judge, expressing his remorse, telling the judge and courtroom “I’m sorry for everything.”

His previous victim, Parkinson, doubts his sincerity.

“He was continuing to do this to other women and still to this day continues to do it to other women, including friends of friends of mine, and it’s hard. It’s hard to see that people cannot heal and that people cannot change even with going through our court system and jail system,” said Parkinson.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Giaschi was the one balancing all this information. Giaschi said in his sentencing statements that though Denniston’s crimes were harrowing, the Gladue factors in his case were particularly strong and ultimately led him to accept Crown and defence’s much-reduced joint-submission of four years.

“Mr. Denniston…This is perhaps your one and only opportunity to turn things around. I hope you take advantage of those opportunities,” said Giaschi.

Denniston is banned from communicating with the victim for four years while serving his sentence, has to provide a DNA sample, and is now under a lifetime gun ban.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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