A man who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl later broke his bail conditions by exchanging almost 25,000 text messages with her in just 16 days, a court heard on Monday.
In addition to the texts, the 25-year-old man telephoned the girl 193 times and sent her 192 images over that same period, an NWT Supreme Court sentencing hearing heard.
During the police investigation in the small NWT community, RCMP discovered sexually themed texts and photos of the pair together on her phone as well.
“At all times [the man] was aware of [the girl’s] age and that she was under the age of 16 years,” Crown prosecutor Jeff Major-Hansford told the court.
“This is a unique case, in that the luring happened after the … sexual assault and not the other way around.
“A single act of sexual assault is less blameworthy than an ongoing relationship of sexual assault, but there is, in this case, an apparent lengthy relationship [electronically].”
The details of the 2018 sexual assault weren’t read in court, but it is classified as a “major” sexual assault.
One of the text messages read in court was: “I need you, you are my everything. I just want to be with you forever.”
A publication ban prevents the reporting of any information that could lead to identification of the victim.
On June 24, 2019, the girl told RCMP the man had been in regular contact with her since his release on bail on March 10, 2018.
No impact statement from the victim was discussed or entered at the hearing.
The man, without a criminal record, agreed to plead guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual luring in exchange for the Crown dropping other allegations of breaching court conditions, one other count of sexual assault, and two counts of sexual interference.
The plea arrangement included a joint sentencing recommendation for a total of three years – two for sexual assault and one for sexual luring. That sentence would also include a lifetime entry under the national sex offenders’ registry, a ban on being closer than 50 metres to the girl’s residence, and a firearms ban, but he will be able to apply for a subsistence use order.
The man will be allowed to be in the presence of minors, but only in the presence of a sober adult who knows him. This will allow him to continue to participate in cultural activities such as drum dancing and his other volunteer work.
The man has been in jail since June 24, 2019, which also marked the end of his frantic 16-day period of electronic communications. With the amount of remand credit, that means he has 16 months left to serve.
While the man enjoys traditional lifestyles, and had a healthy “and relatively happy” childhood, Gladue factors were still weighed in the sentencing assessment. The Gladue principle, named for Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, is a Supreme Court ruling from the ’90s which requires judges to consider unique systemic or background factors that may bring an Indigenous offender before the courts and select sentences accordingly.
“The Crown’s position is that this is an appropriate sentence under the circumstances,” stated Major-Hansford. “[While there are two offences] before the court, it is not at the high range of acceptable sentences for this type of repeated conduct. It is also not such a lenient sentence that it would fall foul of the principles to be applied under a joint submission.”
Defence lawyer Katherine Oja supplied two letters of support for the man from his father and grandmother. She started to make her submissions to Justice Karan Shaner, but was soon interrupted by the judge.
“I take from the pre-sentence report that [the man] has acknowledged that what happened was wrong and it struck me that rehabilitation is a very important factor [in this case], so I don’t need any more convincing on the appropriateness of the joint submission. I think it’s fair,” said the judge.
She took a 20-minute break and then formalized her agreement regarding the joint sentencing submission.
“There is a need in sexual assault and, in particular, crimes against children, for the court to send a strong message of denunciation and as well that there be deterrence of future conduct,” said Shaner.
“But there is also at play here a significant rehabilitation element.”
She went on to note the offender is relatively young and a “gentle person” who is quite a help in the small community.
Addressing the man directly, Shaner stated: “It really breaks my heart to be imposing a prison sentence on you. I am very heartened by your acknowledgment of your responsibility.
“You have a very good life ahead of you; you have so many positives in your background. So I do wish you the very best.”