29 Feb 2008

Culture cited in voodoo whipping case

The Calgary Sun - February 28, 2008

by Kevin Martin - Sun Media

Cultural and generational differences played a part in a case where a voodoo practitioner whipped a young girl under her care, a lawyer argued yesterday.

Defence counsel Sheldon Kaupp said his client, who can't be named to protect her victim's identity, is from Africa, where using force as punishment is more accepted.

And, Kaupp told Judge Heather Lamoureux, his client also comes from a generation where corporal punishment was more allowable than today, even in Canada.

"It's not that long ago in our history," said Kaupp, relating how he and his brothers used to be whipped by their father with a belt as youngsters.

Kaupp noted that in some African nations, offenders can be sentenced to lashes.

Kaupp's client was convicted in November of assault causing bodily harm for whipping a girl she claimed was her daughter with a cable cord for coming home late.

The girl, who was 12 when assaulted in December 2005, said she was handed over to her abuser by her real parents in Sierra Leone so she could seek a better life in Canada.

Kaupp suggested probation would be appropriate, but Crown prosecutor Grant Schorn said a short jail term or more lengthy conditional sentence is warranted.

The woman was also disruptive after being taken into custody to provide a DNA sample. Defence counsel Patrick Flynn said the woman is a practitioner of voodoo and giving up any bodily fluid violates her religion.



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