Bizarre case comes to close

A bizarre case in Kelowna court has come to a close after a man was sentenced Tuesday for attempting to take a baby from its mother's arms last spring.

On April 28, a family was enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in downtown Kelowna's Kerry Park, when 30-year-old Giffen Nyren grabbed the family's 14-month-old son.

After a brief struggle, the child's father pushed Nyren away. Nyren told the parents: “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I got scared," before stripping naked and jumping in Okanagan Lake. Police were eventually able to coerce him back to shore, where he was arrested.

The child was examined at Kelowna General Hospital and was found to be unharmed.

On Tuesday, Nyren pleaded guilty to assault, and through a joint submission between the Crown and defence was handed a conditional discharge with a two-year probation period. This means if Nyren abides by his conditions, the conviction will be wiped from his record.

“To the family that I hurt, I'm so sorry,” Nyren said following his sentencing. “It's not easy looking in the mirror and realizing your actions. That day, I wasn't in the right state of mind.”

After he was arrested, Nyren told his doctor he had begun to feel threatened by the people around him that afternoon. He said he thought the 14-month-old child had been abducted, and he needed to help. His doctor said Nyren appeared “disorganized and acutely psychotic.”

It's still unclear what exactly happened to Nyren on the day in question. The 30-year-old professional hockey player has no prior criminal record, and a toxicology report following his arrest found no evidence of drug or alcohol abuse.

Nyren's lawyer Grant Gray pointed to the fact that his client had been going through a stressful period after he broke up with his longtime girlfriend and his professional hockey career in Europe had come to an end. Gray also said Nyren suffered four “registered concussions” in his hockey career in addition to other more minor ones.

Nyren was initially certified under the Mental Health Act and, after he was transferred to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam for assessment, he was released from custody in mid-May.

The assessment determined a number of potential diagnoses, but Crown prosecutor David Ruse said he most likely suffered from a “manic episode with psychosis and he suffers from bipolar disorder.”

In a victim impact statement, the child's mother said the incident was extremely traumatic for her, and she continues to have nightmares, flashback and panic attacks. 

As part of his sentence, Nyren was ordered to pay the mother $4,648 in lost wages and child care costs. Nyren has expressed interest in meeting her in person to apologize for his actions, and the mother has indicated she may be receptive to that at future date.

“The number one thing is how sorry I am to the family that my actions have hurt and all the other people that are scared from the situation,” Nyren told reporters after his sentencing. “Anyone who know me knows that that isn't my true character ... There was no intent to hurt anyone in this situation.”

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