On the morning of December 24, a houseguest in his fifties sexually touched a pre-pubescent girl as she slept before her older sister confronted him and threw him out of the residence, Territorial Court in Yellowknife heard on Wednesday.
Judge Garth Malakoe said: “This happened on the day before Christmas. No [child] should ever have to endure this type of sexual intrusion. This will affect her for the rest of her life.”
Quoting from a previous NWT Supreme Court ruling, the judge said: “Sex crimes against children occur all too often and the consequences are nothing short of profound. Even in the absence of physical wounds, emotional harm takes many years to heal – if it does at all.”
Warning: This report contains details from the case that readers may find disturbing.
The court heard the victim was sleeping in the living room. She was wearing shorts and no underwear. She woke up when the accused had his hand in her shorts.
The man was an occasional houseguest at the residence of his former girlfriend. He was not considered to be in a position of trust and it did not appear to be a pre-meditated act, the court heard.
“However, [his] actions were predatory and opportunistic,” said the judge, noting alcohol wasn’t a factor.
“He claims to have been ‘in a daze’ as a result of smoking a large amount of cannabis.”
The man made an early guilty plea to sexual interference, saving the victim from additional stress and anxiety, said Malakoe.
“Because of her age, she was a vulnerable victim and a vulnerable witness,” said the judge, noting a victim impact statement hadn’t been provided.
The court heard the man had been a subject of abuse himself as a child while in residential school.
He was initially raised by his grandparents in a smaller NWT community, before being sent to residential school at the age of seven. He was subsequently a ward of the state until he was 17.
“I didn’t have a childhood at all,” the man is quoted as saying in a pre-sentence report. “I was raised by the government and I was always around strangers – strange people, strange food, strange music – there was just so much trauma for years and years.”
He has a teenage son but has not been involved in his upbringing. He has worked at times as a welder and carpenter. He turned to alcohol in his teens and harder drugs later on.
“[His] childhood was one that no child should ever have to go through,” said Malakoe. “I take the factors into account when I consider [his] personal blameworthiness.
“However, any sentence for this type of offence must emphasize deterrence and denunciation.”
The man has an extensive criminal record with 50 convictions dating back to 1987, including several for violence and one sexual assault in 1988.
While the Crown had asked for 15 months in custody, Malakoe sided with defence lawyer Leslie Moore who suggested 12 months was more appropriate.
The man had amassed 190 days of pre-trial custody credit since his arrest, leaving 175 days left to serve.
When he is released, the man will be subject to 18 months’ probation during which he must report to a probation officer, take counselling as directed, and have no contact or communication with the victim. He will be prohibited from being within two kilometres of her residence.
He will be included in the national DNA sample databank and in the national sex offender registry.
He will be banned from having firearms or ammunition for 10 years after release. He could apply for a sustenance hunting exemption as he did say he wants to explore his Indigenous roots and be out on the land.
He can have no employment in, nor volunteer for, a position that would place him in a position of trust with minors for 10 years.
A publication ban prevents the release of any information that could lead to identification of the victim. The name of the offender, the community in which the crime took place, and the exact ages of those involved have been withheld.