CRANBROOK, B.C. — Two men convicted of polygamy in British Columbia will not be serving time in jail after a B.C. Supreme Court judge gave them conditional sentences on Tuesday.
Winston Blackmore was convicted of having 24 wives, while the court found James Oler had five wives.
Blackmore's six-month conditional sentence to be served under house arrest allows him to go to work and attend to medical emergencies, followed by 12 months' probation.
Oler's term is three months of house arrest, followed by 12 months of probation.
Special prosecutor Peter Wilson had recommended three to six months in jail for Blackmore and one to three months for Oler.
Justice Sheri Ann Donegan says it was delicate balance to come up with a fair sentence and while both men are hard-working and otherwise law abiding, a discharge by the court would not have been appropriate, given the gravity of their offences.
"He's made it clear that no sentence will deter him from practising his faith," she said of Blackmore, 61, who also has 149 children.
"The concept of remorse is foreign to him in this context."
Donegan says Oler's crimes were motivated by his "sincerely held religious beliefs instilled in him at an early age."
Girls married as young as 15
The judge said some of the men's wives were as young as 15 when they were married.
Blackmore has also been ordered to perform 150 hours of community service work, while Oler must do 75 hours.
Dozens of Blackmore supporters were in court. Some cried when the sentence was read.
The men have been leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect that believes in plural marriage.
They have both been part of the small community of Bountiful in southeastern B.C.
Blackmore's lawyer had asked the judge to consider all possible sentences in the case, including an absolute discharge.
The maximum sentence for polygamy under the Criminal Code is five years in prison.
There are only two other convictions for polygamy in Canadian history, but because those cases took place in 1899 and 1906, Wilson told the judge they didn't set a precedent in determining sentences for the men.