In sentencing a Yellowknife man to jail for “protracted sexual exploitation” of a girl, a Territorial Court judge said both the Crown and the accused had not taken the crime seriously enough.
Judge Donovan Molloy, reading from his decision on Thursday afternoon, said: “The Crown, with the defence’s consent, re-elected to proceed by summary conviction on the sexual assault charge.
“It is unclear why the Crown would, after a guilty plea had been entered over a month previously, elect the less serious mode of procedure for an accused that committed multiple acts of sexual assault over several years.
“While electing the mode of procedure is exclusively within the Crown’s discretion, if this matter does not merit proceeding by indictment, one has to wonder what does.”
Summary conviction and indictment can be equated to misdemeanour and felony in the American legal system. A summary conviction offers more lenient sentences.
There is a publication ban on any information that could lead to the identity of the victim or her mother.
The judge noted defence lawyer Leslie Moore “repeatedly stressed the negative impacts on [his client’s] lifestyle, income, and well-being as a result of the media coverage of these charges and the subsequent legal proceedings.”
While the accused “briefly acknowledged his wrongdoing and the harm … he primarily spoke to the hardships he has experienced as a businessman and resident of a small city,” stated the judge.
“Neither [the accused] nor his support network appear to recognize the fundamental reality that [the man] is a sex offender.
“This was not an isolated incident of poor judgement but rather a protracted sexual exploitation.”
‘Place of sanctuary transformed’
The Crown argued for an eight-month jail term followed by two years of probation with conditions.
Through his lawyer, the man argued his health might be at risk – without providing evidence of a pre-existing medical condition – if he had to serve his sentence in jail, due to the threat of Covid-19.
Molloy rejected that position, noting there are no active cases in the NWT, including in its correctional facilities.
The defence had asked the court to consider a period of imprisonment of one year to be served in the community and, in the event the court denies that request, that it impose a period of incarceration in the four-month range, stated Molloy’s decision.
On January 23, 2019, the man was charged with sexual interference, sexual assault, and voyeurism. An agreed statement of facts referenced incidents of sexual assault occurring over a period when the girl was between 11 and 13 years of age.
Crown prosecutor Travis Weagant originally elected to proceed by indictment on all counts. The accused originally entered a guilty plea to a charge of sexual interference on September 24, 2019.
Subsequently, on July 7, 2020, the Crown consented to the man withdrawing his guilty plea and instead he pleaded guilty to sexual assault. The Crown later decided to proceed on the less-serious summary conviction route.
The man has suffered serious financial impacts since his crimes became known, the court heard – and, due to his shame and embarrassment, has largely remained inside his home since that time.
Reading from a 2014 decision in Newfoundland, Molloy stated: “A child’s home, and in particular a child’s bedroom, should be a place of sanctuary and refuge from whatever threats a child fears. Transforming that haven to an environment where abuses are perpetrated … has to undermine a child’s entitlement to feel secure anywhere.”
Molloy said the courts “must continually reinforce the message that sexual assault is not a private matter [and it] constitutes a fundamental breach of a position of trust and authority.”
The man had been gainfully employed his entire life and had no criminal record. He has a history of contributing to his community in several volunteer capacities, many of those involving youth.
That will now end with Molloy’s sentence. In addition to an eight-month jail term and two years of probation – with conditions including to take counselling as directed, and to not contact the victim – the man will have to provide a DNA sample to the national crime databank and be placed on the sex offenders’ registry.
For a period of 10 years, he is prohibited from “seeking, obtaining, or continuing any employment, whether or not the employment is remunerated, or becoming or being a volunteer in a capacity, that involves being in a position of trust or authority towards persons under the age of 16 years.”
Update: September 24, 2020 – 18:31 MT. The original text of this article has been altered significantly. Some details were removed to account for the approach taken to reporting this case by another news outlet, which risked jigsaw identification, whereby a minor subject to a publication ban can be identified through facts published in several different places at once.