Prosecutor makes final arguments in long-term offender hearing
A Northwest Territories Crown prosecutor says a man convicted three times of sexual assault should receive a lengthy period of supervision because he is likely to reoffend.
During a sentencing hearing in NWT Supreme Court on Monday, prosecutor Morgan Fane argued Johnny Simon should be sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment for one charge of sexual assault.
Fane is seeking to have Simon designated a long-term offender and supervised for eight years once released from prison. By that time, Simon will be 50 years old.
Long-term offenders can be supervised for up to 10 years by Corrections Canada. The purpose of this designation under the criminal code is to protect the public from those who are at high risk of reoffending violently, but that risk can eventually be managed in the community.
By contrast, a dangerous offender designation allows for an indefinite prison sentence.
The hearing comes after Simon was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in Inuvik in 2017.
According to a victim impact statement written in January 2019, the woman said she experienced anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks, and didn’t want to leave her home following the assault. She said she was sad that friends made her feel the assault was her fault.
Fane said determining an offender’s likelihood of reoffending can be tricky as judges are asked to predict the future. Quoting a court case from Ontario, however, he said of Simon: “Whatever a long-term offender is, sir, you are one.”
Fane noted Simon has a lengthy criminal record with 11 violent offences. That includes a conviction of aggravated assault after beating his elderly grandfather unconscious at his home in Fort McPherson in 2008. John Simon Sr, 82, died while at the Inuvik Regional Hospital in early 2009.
Fane referenced an assessment by forensic psychiatrist Philip Klassen that found Simon’s risk factors for reoffending include his lack of social and economic capital, substance misuse, access to vulnerable people, and personality disorders.
Simon said he has been addicted to alcohol since he was 12 years old. As an adult, he has only abstained from alcohol while he was in custody.
This is significant, Fane said, as substance use is a key factor in Simon’s violent crimes. He noted Simon told Klassen: “I feel like nothing when I’m drinking. It’s like I don’t care.”
Klassen diagnosed Simon with anti-social and borderline personality disorders, which he said means Simon is prone to impulsive and self-serving behaviour.
Fane said Simon is unable to control or manage his anger and doesn’t think before he acts.
Additionally, Fane said, in two of the sexual assaults Simon committed, his victims had the approximate mental age of a three-year-old and a 10-year-old.
‘He can’t do it on his own’
While Fane could have argued for both a longer period of supervision and a longer prison sentence (sexual assault carries a maximum sentence of 10 years), he said Simon’s moral blameworthiness for his crimes was reduced because of the trauma he had experienced.
“Mr Simon being who he is is a product of society,” the prosecutor said.
Simon has said the only thing his family taught him was to fight and drink. His mother was stabbed to death and he says he was sexually assaulted by his grandfather and uncle. At a young age, he began using alcohol and inhaling propane.
While there should be better supports for people like Simon, Fane said, the court needs to look at the reality of what is available for Simon in the community.
He said a two-and-a-half-year sentence would increase Simon’s likelihood of getting into programming and treatment in prison, even though there was no programming in correctional facilities for three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Simon has done well in custody, Fane said, has been willing to meaningfully take part in treatment, and has some insight into his behaviour. When he is out in the community, however, Simon falls back into a criminal lifestyle.
“He can’t do it on his own,” Fane said.
Finally, Fane noted that Klassen has said age will reduce Simon’s risk of offending. By the time he is 50, Fane said, Simon will be at lower risk of committing a violent offence.
Defence lawyer Katherine Oja is expected to give her sentencing arguments on Tuesday morning.