WESTLOCK, Alta. – A former Westlock-area man who shot his kids with a BB gun, whipped them with a leather belt and repeatedly called them “stupid” in what his lawyer called “misguided parenting” now faces an 18-month conditional sentence order (CSO), including nine months of strict, 24-hour-a-day house arrest and a decade-long weapons ban.
In Westlock Provincial Court July 27, Philip Beastall, 37, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a weapon, while two identical charges and a count of unlawful confinement were withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Alison Moore, who noted she had asked the mother and children if they wanted a publication ban to conceal their identity, but they declined.
Judge Jim Wheatley tepidly accepted the joint-sentence submission for a year-and-a-half CSO from Moore and defence lawyer Karanpal Aujla, asking them both more than once how the community would be kept safe by allowing Beastall to serve his sentence at home.
The judge also openly questioned why Beastall, who now lives in Manitoba, hadn’t sought any counselling since the offence, before ultimately agreeing to the CSO that’ll see him serve nine months of 24-hour-a-day house arrest, followed by three months under a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Over the course of the CSO, Beastall has been barred from contacting his children or ex-wife, while facing a host of other conditions under a probation order. He’s also been banned from owning any weapons for 10 years and will pay $200 in victim-fine surcharges.
Judge Wheatley, who appeared agitated throughout the proceedings and had little time for the explanation of the assaults, told the victims “it’s over now and you can get on with your lives” before giving them the thumbs up at the conclusion of sentencing. The case had been slated to be heard in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench June 6-10, but Aujla said his client had a change of heart June 3 and decided to plead guilty in part to spare his children from testifying — the file has been on the docket for the last 16 months. Meanwhile, Moore said the Crown had considered the effect of the joint submission “on the repute of the administration of justice” and that the sentence “was a calibrated outcome in a case where there were risks on both sides.”
“There is nothing I can do to make these kids’ lives any better. All I can do is hope that having this over with today will give them some courage in their lives to try and deal with the incredibly hard task of putting this behind them and to heal,” said Judge Wheatley, who encouraged the kids and their mother to get into counselling. “What’s happened is wrong. He’s pled guilty and admitted he did it and has made a limited apology to you. And he’s moved away and that’s probably the best thing that ever happened … and as a judge I shouldn’t be saying that.”
No excuse, says lawyer
Aujla told court that there was no justification for his client’s actions but said “that was the manner in which he himself was raised when he was growing up.” He also told court Beastall is now in a relationship with a woman in Manitoba who has three kids “and he’s been a great father figure to them, and she doesn’t see how he could have done these things.”
“Essentially it was a misguided attempt to discipline the children to have a good life, I suppose, without realizing the negative harm and impact that it could have,” said Aujla. “It’s been a significant experience and wake-up call for Mr. Beastall. The biggest burden that he now bears is that his two kids, his only two kids, don’t want anything to do with him. He hopes that perhaps when they get older they’ll find it in their heart to forgive him and move past this.”
Beastall, who was born in England and raised in Manitoba before moving to Alberta, offered a short apology.
“There’s no excuse for any of this. All I can do is apologize. I’m so sorry, this is terrible … I’m truly sorry,” said Beastall.
Moore said the assaults of Phillip’s daughter Caitlin, now 15, occurred between Sept. 1, 2012, and July 30, 2019, while the assaults of his son Declan, now 18, occurred between Feb. 15, 2012, and July 30, 2019.
Moore told court that when Caitlin was between the ages of six and 11, Philip would beat her with a leather belt and the “beatings would happen when her mother wasn’t home.” Moore went on note that when Caitlin was having trouble with her writing, “he called her stupid and hit her with his belt.”
Moore recounted that after getting a ‘B’ on a test in Grade 6, Caitlin went to watch TV and was told she wasn’t allowed as “it would make her more stupid and she needed to study.” Later, in her bedroom, Phillip yelled at her calling her worthless and “a stupid and retarded child.” He then took off his belt and whipped her five times on her back.
The assaults against Declan started when he was seven and continued until he was 15 and included Phillip wielding a leather strap and “whipped Declan with it like it was a wet towel.”
Moore also said Phillip shot both children with a BB gun on several occasions on their arms, legs and trunks of their bodies.
“On one occasion in 2019, Phillip entered Caitlin’s room when she was alone and shot her with a BB gun on the front of her body for no discernable reason,” said Moore.
Victim impact statements
Melanie and Caitlin both tendered victim impact statements, which were read into the record by Moore, while Declan declined — the court’s mic was muted for the entirety of Caitlin’s statement.
In her statement, Melanie said the abuse suffered by both children “has greatly affected their lives” and has taken a toll on their health as well as hers.
“They can’t escape him, he still controls aspects of their lives even now because he is their father,” reads Melanie’s statement in part. “My kids have a deep distrust of people, they struggle to be close to even family who have been there for them. They don’t believe people will listen to them or understand where they are coming from.
“I can’t tell my children they are safe, I can’t tell my children it is over, I can’t tell them they’ll never have to see him or deal with again. I worry about cycles of abuse and this carrying forward into their future relationships of their own. I just want my kids to be happy and healthy and to not spend their entire lives suffering because of the actions of their father.”
Melanie said Declan struggled throughout high school as the court case loomed and “went from a kid with honours, to a kid who barely could pass the basic stream of classes.”
“He has no interest in participating in any events or making any memories. He did not even attend his own graduation ceremonies,” reads her statement. “He has no hope for his future and no goal he is working towards. He has a lot of anger and hates adults.”
Melanie said Caitlin still fears her father will show up and “shoot all of us” and has panic attacks which cause her to have trouble breathing.
“If she sees things that remind her of her dad, someone who looks like him, trucks that look like her father’s truck, she is immediately thrown into chaos. She has woken up in the middle of the night screaming many times,” reads the statement in part.