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Reformatory CP - November 2002

Globe & Mail, Toronto, 8 November 2002

Ex-nun given jail sentence for child abuse

Eight-month term intended to be seen as a deterrent to others, judge says

By Chris Morris
Canadian Press

CHARLOTTETOWN -- A judge has sent a former nun to jail for beating children, bringing an end to a court case that revolved around biblical tenets and modern sensibilities about corporal punishment.

Lucille Poulin, the 78-year-old spiritual leader of a rural PEI commune, was sentenced yesterday to eight months in jail followed by three years probation.

She is not to live with or care for children during her period of punishment.

Mr. Justice David Jenkins of the PEI Supreme Court said Ms. Poulin isolated the children in her care in a "regime of fear and frequent violence."

She was convicted last month of assaulting five who lived at the commune by frequently beating them with a wooden paddle she called the rod of correction. They ranged in age from 7 to 12.

"In my view, the objectives of denunciation and general deterrence are significant in this case," Judge Jenkins said at sentencing.

The judge said he wanted to send the message that "people cannot assault children without criminal law consequences."

Ms. Poulin was stoic as she heard the sentence.

Dressed in her usual attire of a floral dress with a matching cap covering her hair, she hugged and kissed the four commune members who have sat with her through the trial, which began in September.

Ms. Poulin was taken away by guards. She will serve her eight months at the Sleepy Hollow provincial jail near Charlottetown.

"It's her turn now for punishment," said Ms. Poulin's niece, who lives in Vancouver and has cared for two of the commune children.

"This is a vindication for those little children. At least someone believed them."

The niece said Ms. Poulin's advanced age will make prison time difficult. "But I think the judge did the right thing. She has to suffer the consequences of her actions."

Earlier in the day, a defiant but emotional Ms. Poulin told Judge Jenkins the blood of the children she assaulted is not on her hands.

Ms. Poulin, who describes herself as prophet of the commune near Summerside, PEI, asked for the court's mercy, admitting it was "no small thing" to be tried and convicted for a criminal offence.

But she never said she was sorry about pain and suffering she inflicted on children at the commune.

Ms. Poulin said God told her it was all right to punish children physically in an effort to drive out the devil. The court ruled she went beyond correction to child abuse.

In sentencing her, Judge Jenkins noted Ms. Poulin's lack of regret.

"She showed no remorse or acknowledgment of wrongdoing," he said. Ms. Poulin said she has been faithful to the mandate she was given by God. Her voice shaking with emotion during a rambling presentence statement, she said she loves Jesus Christ above all else.

"I just want to say it is better to obey God than man," she said.

Ms. Poulin did not clarify what she meant when she said her hands were free of the blood of the children.

Her lawyer, Zia Chishti, said in his address to the court that Ms. Poulin was acting on the authority of the children's parents, all commune members. Ms. Poulin looked after the children while the parents worked in the commune restaurant and on the farm.

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