A man from British Columbia, Canada has been found guilty of polygamy after marrying 24 women.
61-year-old Winston Blackmore was found guilty of having 24 wives and given a six-month conditional sentence under house arrest which will allow for work attendance and medical emergencies.
Blackmore – who has reportedly fathered 149 Children – has also been sentenced to 150 hours of community service work, with 12 months probation.
Weeping could be heard as the sentence was passed in Cranbrook on Tuesday morning, with dozens of Blackmore’s relatives and supporters being in attendance in the courtroom gallery.
Blackmore is a bishop in the isolated community of Bountiful, B.C. where he is a leader within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This church is a breakaway Mormon sect which embraces polyamorous marriages.
According to Global News, officers began investigating Bountiful back in the nineties, with several previous attempts to charge Blackmore failing due to vague laws concerning polygamy.
However, back in 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled laws prohibiting polygamy were legal.
BREAKING: Winston Blackmore conditionally sentenced to 6 months imprisonment to be served in the community followed by 12 months probation. pic.twitter.com/wlWUlPOqbX
— Trevor Crawley (@tcrawls) June 26, 2018
According to CTV News, Blackmore wed his first wife Jane Blackmore back in 1975.
Ten of Blackmore’s wives were 17 years old at the time of their ‘marriage’. Three wives were 16 and one was just 15 years of age when he married them.
Blackmore’s legal representation had reportedly requested the judge consider all possible sentences, including an absolute discharge.
Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said:
He’s made it clear that no sentence will deter him from practicing his faith.
The concept of remorse is foreign to him in this context.
Charged alongside Blackmore was fellow bishop James Oler. Oler was charged with having five wives in ‘celestial’ marriages, and was sentenced to 75 hours of community service, followed by 12 months probation.
Donegan stated how 53-year-old Oler had been motivated to marry multiple wives due to his ‘sincerely held religious beliefs instilled in him at an early age:
He does not feel any remorse for his offence because he feels he did not know any other way of life and sees no harm or victims in his offence.
During the trial, Justice Donegan noted how although both men were hard-working and otherwise law abiding, a court discharge would have been inappropriate when taking into account the gravity of their offences.
Justice Donegan said:
Determining a proportionate sentence is a delicate task,
Sentences that are too lenient and sentences that are too harsh can undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.
Under the criminal code, the maximum penalty for committing polygamy is a five year prison sentence.
According to The Huffington Post, special prosecutor Peter Wilson had recommended a three to six month prison sentence for Blackmore and a one to three month prison sentence for Oler.
There have only been two other polygamy convictions in Canadian history. However, due to these cases taking place in 1899 and 1906, Wilson had advised Judge Donegan they didn’t set a precedent in deciding these contemporary sentences.
Thus, the convictions handed down are the first of their kind in Canada in over one hundred years.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.