A Northwest Territories man convicted of his third sexual assault has been sentenced to six years and four months’ imprisonment and designated a long-term offender.
That designation carries significant legal meaning. Deeming Johnny Simon a long-term offender means he will be supervised by Corrections Canada for five years after he is released from prison.
NWT Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau, sentencing Simon in Yellowknife on Friday, said that supervision would provide some outside control to stop him hurting anyone else.
“It is in everyone’s interest, including Mr Simon’s interest, that this not happen,” she said.
Charbonneau noted making the designation was “not an easy decision.”
Long-term offender hearings differ from regular sentencing hearings as judges must consider the person’s likelihood of reoffending in the future, not just their past crimes.
Judges consider factors like psychological assessments and an offender’s criminal record.
Long-term offenders can be supervised for up to 10 years by Corrections Canada. The designation is intended to protect the public from those who pose a substantial risk of reoffending violently, while reintegrating offenders into the community.
Sexual assaults ‘impulsive and opportunistic’
Charbonneau ultimately found that Simon does pose such a risk, saying his three sexual assaults formed a pattern.
Simon was intoxicated when he committed the three assaults, she said, which were “impulsive and opportunistic” and against vulnerable women. She added Simon committed the third assault after he had completed high-intensity programming related to sexual offences.
In 2001 and 2007, Simon assaulted two adult women with the mental ages of three and 10 respectively, the court heard. In 2017, he assaulted a woman who was highly intoxicated after he pushed her to the ground.
Charbonneau also considered Simon’s lengthy criminal record. While the judge said that’s not uncommon for people who have had a “troubled life,” including addiction, poverty, and homelessness, some of Simon’s crimes stood out.
Most notably, Simon was convicted of aggravated assault after beating his grandfather unconscious at his home in Fort McPherson in late 2008. The elderly man died in hospital in early 2009. Simon was considered medically but not legally responsible for the death.
Charbonneau said while Simon had a troubled relationship with his grandfather, the incident showed he’s capable of extreme violence when intoxicated.
“Mr Simon should probably never touch alcohol again,” she said.
Upbringing ‘nothing short of horrific’
The judge noted, however, that Simon’s moral blameworthiness for his crimes was reduced because of the trauma he had experienced.
Simon was robbed of his childhood and adolescence, she said, describing his upbringing as “nothing short of horrific.”
When he was five, Simon began living with his grandfather, a residential school survivor and “severe alcoholic.”
Simon said his grandfather physically and sexually abused him for more than a decade. As a result, Simon began regularly using alcohol and inhalants by the age of 12 to deal with the trauma. When he was 14, his mother was murdered.
“Mr Simon has suffered immense loss and trauma from early on in his life,” Charbonneau said, adding that had shaped his adulthood.
Charbonneau said Simon does have some insight into the challenges he faces and has taken steps to address his anger and grief. He has, however, experienced setbacks when not in a structured environment, she said.
During a sentencing hearing in July, Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane had argued Simon should be given a long-term supervision order of eight years. By that time, Simon will be 50 years old, when a forensic psychologist said an offender’s risk of reoffending naturally declines.
Defence lawyer Katherina Oja had argued against the long-term offender designation but said, if Charbonneau did issue one, it should be for only five years. She noted supervision should end when an offender is no longer at a substantial risk of offending, rather than when there is no or minimal risk.
Charbonneau agreed with Oja, saying if there was not substantial risk, there would not be a long-term offender order. She added that age is just one factor in determining an offender’s risk of reoffending and that it’s not an exact science.
Speaking directly to Simon, Charbonneau said she wished him “courage and success” in the next chapter of his life.
“I really hope you will be able to access the help that you need.”
With time served in pretrial custody, Simon has two years remaining in his sentence. The national parole board will determine the conditions of his supervision upon his release.