South Slave
Yellowknife

'Dangerous offender' who assaulted Hay River girl gets 14 years


Warning: This report contains details of a sexual assault case, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.

A 34-year-old Alberta man convicted of raping a 13-year-old in Hay River, his fourth sexual assault conviction, has been deemed a dangerous offender.

Cody Durocher was handed a 14-year sentence by Supreme Court Chief Justice Louise Charbonneau in Yellowknife on Tuesday.

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He was deemed a dangerous offender after the designation was requested by the Crown following the trial, where Durocher was convicted of sexual assault and sexual interference.

In laying out the sentencing, Charbonneau outlined the facts heard in the 2014 case, which took place at an apartment in the Hay River highrise.

Durocher had offered vodka to the girl, kissed her on the lips, and called her "baby," Charbonneau said. He assaulted the girl despite her telling the court she told him to stop and also punched him.

When she left the apartment, the victim was "highly intoxicated" and could not walk straight, Charbonneau said. The victim was on a curfew at the time of the assault. When police at first couldn't find her, then found her passed out at a residence she often frequented, they arrested her for breach of curfew. Charbonneau said the victim, upset and sobbing, disclosed the assault on arrival at the police station.

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As the 2016 trial wrapped up, the Crown asked to have Durocher deemed a dangerous offender and given an indeterminate sentence. An indeterminate sentence would mean the offender's prison sentence doesn't have an end date and is first reviewed after seven years, a sentence which often accompanies a dangerous offender designation.

Charbonneau rejected that option, instead selecting the maximum 14-year term for sexual assault, as she felt Durocher could yet eventually benefit from programming designed to rehabilitate him.

Durocher suffered a difficult childhood, the court heard, including being exposed to the suicide of two of his uncles and many deaths in his small northern Alberta community. These elements were taken into account in her sentencing, Charbonneau said.

She added there was a "striking difference" between his behaviour in his community, where he was known to work hard and not considered violent by his family, and his crimes outside the community.

Charbonneau said Durocher has been convicted of four sexual assaults and the 2014 assault was part of a "broader pattern of violence."

After his trial in the NWT, Durocher went through and was suspended from three different treatment programs. This included a high-intensity Aboriginal sex offender program at the Bowden Institution in Alberta, which Charbonneau said was "culturally appropriate."

In all programs, Charbonneau said, Durocher was disruptive. He was also repeatedly found tattooing other inmates or holding items used for tattooing, a practice he told a parole officer he would never stop but "just get better at hiding."

"He has no empathy and engages in victim blaming, but those are all common traits in untreated sex offenders," Charbonneau said in her sentencing.

Hearings concerning whether to classify Durocher as a dangerous offender took place in 2018, including testimony from two experts who felt he does not suffer from mental illness or sexual disorder, yet does have anti-social personality traits which would make engagement in treatment programs difficult.

The court also heard from defence lawyer Jennifer Cunningham that Durocher spent 23 hours a day in segregation – often termed solitary confinement in common parlance – during the three years he was held at the Peace River Correctional Centre. Charbonneau said the courts recognize time spent in segregation is detrimental to mental health, particularly for long periods of time. However, in Durocher's case, she felt this experience – while "setting him back" – would not explain his behaviour in the treatment programs.

After his 14-year sentence, during which the Parole Board of Canada may grant him release, Durocher will be under long-term supervision for a period of 10 years. He could be kept in the North, Crown prosecutor Annie Piché​ said, but this is not typical with the needs Durocher has. He will also be registered as a sex offender for life.

The identity of the victim of the Hay River assault, as well as any other sexual assault victims, is protected under a publication ban.

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