3 min

Fountainhead gaybasher granted full parole

Ritchie Dowrey still in a care home

The Parole Board of Canada says Shawn Woodward (left, with his lawyer, Joel Whysall in 2010) has "demonstrated genuine remorse" for his attack on Ritchie Dowrey. Credit: Shimon Karmel photo

As Ritchie Dowrey continues to live in a care home, the man convicted of gaybashing him at the Fountainhead Pub four years ago was granted full parole May 17.

Provincial Court Judge Jocelyn Palmer ruled Nov 8, 2010, that Shawn Woodward’s powerful sucker-punch to the unsuspecting Dowrey’s head was a hate-motivated crime.

“I see no other possible explanation for Mr Woodward’s behaviour than virulent homophobia,” Palmer said, as she sentenced Woodward to six years in prison for aggravated assault.

According to the Parole Board of Canada’s (PBC) recent decision, Woodward believes his sentence was “too punitive.”

However, the board says, Woodward has “demonstrated genuine remorse” and taken full responsibility for his crime.

He had appealed Palmer’s ruling but was rejected by the BC Court of Appeal May 28, 2011.

The PBC decision says Woodward was familiar with the gay pub where he assaulted Dowrey for offering to buy him a drink. The decision says Woodward now recognizes that Dowrey’s behaviour before the attack was non-threatening.

The full parole comes after Woodward completed a second period of six-month day parole. PBC documents from 2012 say Woodward was living at a halfway house under the supervision of a parole officer.

“The Parole Board of Canada has granted the offender a full parole release and the offender will now be able to live in his own accommodations,” PBC communications officer Debra Kihara said in a May 23 letter to Xtra.

But, she says, Woodward’s full sentence runs until Nov 7, 2016. Until that time, Woodward will have to report to a parole officer.

If, however, he is deemed to be a risk before that 2016 date, a warrant can be issued and he would return to jail.

Woodward’s parole comes with conditions. He is not to contact Dowrey or his family directly or indirectly. “The victim of the index offense and his family have a right to be free from any unwanted contact from you,” the report says.

“The victim suffered very serious injuries that have impacted his ability to live independently,” the report adds. “The impact is lasting and serious.”

The board says Woodward was assessed as being a low risk to reoffend and is looking forward to being self-employed in the construction industry.

Woodward is also not to enter establishments that serve alcohol; cannot consume, purchase or possess alcohol; and cannot consume, purchase or possess drugs other than prescribed ones.

The board placed special emphasis on the intoxicants provisions. “You were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the index offence and have self reported heavy use of illicit drugs in the past,” the PBC report says. “Intoxicants have been a factor in your criminal history.”

On the night of the attack, Woodward took a long route to leave the pub, deliberately passing by Dowrey, who had earlier offered to buy him a drink.

Woodward punched Dowrey as he passed the pool table. Dowrey fell backward, striking his head on a hard tile floor with a thud that reverberated throughout the pub.

Woodward stepped over Dowrey’s prone body and walked out the door. He was caught outside by pub patrons, including Lindsay Wincherauk, who was the first to hear Woodward say, “He’s a faggot. He deserved it. The faggot touched me. He deserved it.”

Dowrey fractured his skull and suffered “catastrophic” brain damage, the court heard.

He is unlikely to ever live independently again, although he continues to be assessed by doctors.

“He’s in pretty good health,” says brother Allan Dowrey. “They don’t see him returning to any better position.”

Allan says Ritchie hasn’t changed much in the past year, though friends say he is still regaining some memories. He now lives in a care home in Burnaby.

Once an avid golfer, Ritchie continues to use a walker. He also has a wheelchair. “It’s a tough pill to swallow, but he’s lucky to be alive,” Allan says.

Allan says he had been taking their mother to see Ritchie, but they’ve now stopped.

“She said, ‘I can’t go anymore.’ It’s too much trauma for her,” Allan says. “You’ve got to protect yourself.”

But, Allan says, Ritchie does enjoy visits with his granddaughter.

“He’s very, very happy to see her,” Allan says.

As for Woodward getting parole, Allan says, “I couldn’t care less.”

By law, Woodward was allowed to apply for day parole, which was granted at a June 5, 2012, hearing.

According to 2012 PBC documents, while in jail Woodward acknowledged having a substance abuse problem and accepted help for it as per board conditions.

PBC documents showed at that point Woodward wanted to become a drug and alcohol counsellor.