On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Conrad Gaysford, a former McGill student, was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest for assault causing bodily harm to Kathryn Leci, a current McGill Master of Engineering candidate. The Honourable Judge Louise Baribeau of Montreal Municipal Court presided over the case.
The conditional sentence requires that Gaysford keep the peace, appear before the court when required, and surrender his passport, among other provisions. For the first six months of the sentence he is not permitted to leave his residence in Canada at any time of the day, except for documented employment or study purposes. For the following six months, Gaysford is required to remain at his residence from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.. Hon. Baribeau also granted Gaysford an exemption to his house arrest for the dates of Dec. 24, 25, and 31, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018. Gaysford will not serve any prison time for the assault.
The assault occurred outside an off-campus house party in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood on Sept. 18, 2015, while Gaysford and Leci were both McGill undergraduate students. Following a verbal confrontation, Gaysford punched Leci on her lower left jaw, knocking her unconscious and causing her to fall and strike her head on the pavement. Three days after the incident, Leci was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury by physicians at the Montreal General Hospital. In January 2016, she dropped out of McGill to attend an outpatient rehabilitation centre in London, Ontario, on the recommendation of a doctor who specializes in the treatment of brain injuries.
The Dec. 19 sentencing concludes a legal process that has spanned over two years, with multiple delays. Gaysford was originally arrested by the police in November 2015, and entered an initial plea of not guilty to the same charges in March 2016. Two months later, Gaysford, a British citizen, failed to appear at a scheduled court hearing because he was out of the country, postponing the hearing to September 2016. In November 2016, he admitted guilt and agreed to the facts of the case before a municipal court, after which Hon. Baribeau agreed to postpone the sentencing process until May 2017 to allow Gaysford to graduate with a B.Sc. in Physics. Leci returned to McGill in the Fall 2017 semester to complete her B.Eng. in Chemical Engineering, overlapping with Gaysford for the final year of their degrees.
Sentencing hearings took place over the next eight months until Dec. 19, with members of both parties becoming visibly emotional throughout the hearing process. For the prosecution, Dr. Keith Sequeira, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist who has treated Leci since January 2016, spoke to the injuries she sustained as a result of the assault.
“Ms. Leci continues to have refractory symptoms and impairments that relate to this assault and concussion,” a medical report that Sequeira submitted as evidence to the court read. “Her headaches are present constantly. She also struggles with vision and auditory sensitivity, fatigue and sleep dysfunction much of the time.”
Leci also attested to her injuries in court.
“Of course I still struggle with memory issues,” Leci said through tears during a sentencing hearing in October 2017 when she was questioned by Gaysford’s lawyer, Richard Shadley. “With frequent headaches, with tension issues. It's all constant.”
Sequeira also gave his professional opinion that the chances of Leci making a full recovery are slim.
“Her problems have persisted for almost two years and to a meaningful extent, will likely remain,” Sequeira’s medical report read. “I anticipate that Ms. Leci will likely have symptoms, impairments and limitations in the future that are reasonably consistent with her current presentation [….] I do not expect these to substantially improve in the future.”
The defence also brought several witnesses to the stand, including Gaysford’s father, professors, and friends. They each testified to Gaysford’s character, stating that he was studious, involved in several extra-curricular activities, and had never been involved in a violent encounter prior to the assault on Leci. Gaysford himself also spoke to the psychological trauma he experienced after committing the assault, and the rehabilitative steps—such as counselling and anger management therapy—that he has taken since the incident.
In explaining her judgement to the court, Hon. Baribeau explained that she weighed several factors, including the nature of physical and psychological damages done to Leci, the impact on her studies, the societal impetus to condemn violent acts, the repercussions Gaysford has faced since the incident on social media and in the news, his age, and his ability to contribute to society.
The Dec. 19 sentencing concludes the criminal chapter of the case. In May 2017, Leci filed a civil lawsuit against Gaysford, which is currently still in its preliminary stages.