A man deemed a dangerous offender by an NWT Supreme Court justice is attempting to appeal his conviction and sentence for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old in Hay River in 2014.
Cody Durocher, a 35-year-old from northern Alberta, was designated a dangerous offender in September 2019. He was convicted of sexual assault and sexual interference for the Hay River assault – his fourth conviction for sexual assault.
He was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment with 10 years’ supervision by Corrections Canada after his release.
Durocher, who pleaded not guilty at trial, initially filed an appeal of his conviction in March 2016, before he was sentenced. In court documents, he called the jury’s verdict “perverse” and argued the victim’s evidence should have been thrown out after she did not return to court for cross-examination.
According to court rules, however, an appeal cannot be filed until an offender has been sentenced.
Durocher again filed to appeal his conviction and sentence in September 2019, arguing his dangerous offender designation and 14-year sentence were “unreasonable.”
In a letter to the NWT Court of Appeal in March 2020, Durocher stated his family was still gathering funds to hire a private lawyer for the appeal as he didn’t want to go through legal aid.
“I am working with legal aid to obtain a lawyer but the lawyer on it as I speak I’ve learned she is not that good,” he wrote, also expressing dissatisfaction with past representation.
In a brief court appearance by phone on Monday, however, Durocher said he was “forced to go to legal aid” as his family was facing financial challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said he was satisfied with a lawyer he had spoken with, but remarked that lawyers “don’t do as good” when paid by legal aid, which is “only a fraction” of what they are paid if hired privately.
NWT Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Smallwood refuted that claim, saying in her experience “it makes no difference in the quality of the representation.”
A representative from the NWT legal aid commission told the court Durocher had been approved for an opinion, meaning a lawyer will review the merits of his appeal.
A lawyer had been found in Edmonton, the representative said, but was waiting on a certificate to allow her to work on the case.