The sexual assault of a designated driver by a passenger after a night of bar-hopping has left a Yellowknife woman struggling for years to heal emotional scars.
Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy said the assault was all the more serious as it occurred “in a situation where a sober victim was helping as a designated driver to get the accused [and others] home safely.”
On the evening of June 21, 2015, Ian Leadbeater was heading out for a night of socializing with a friend. They were joined by some other acquaintances. A woman in a relationship with Leadbeater’s friend agreed to be the group’s designated driver.
At the end of the night, as Leadbeater was preparing to exit the vehicle, he leaned over to give the woman – they had just met that night – a brief hug. As he did, he put his hand under her top and groped her.
“She shrieked … and started to cry,” the judge said, reading from his sentencing decision on Friday afternoon.
The woman, the judge said, “was a stranger to him and there was absolutely no basis for Mr Leadbeater to assume any degree of familiarity with her, or for him to believe that there was any tolerance for ignoring the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.”
“Sexual assault also continues to be prevalent in this jurisdiction,” said Molloy, “and this offence had a profound negative impact on the victim.”
Only in 2019 did the woman tell RCMP she felt able to move forward with a complaint against Leadbeater, now 35, who had since moved to Ontario. He was charged with one count of sexual assault and found guilty after trial in March.
In a victim impact statement, the woman described what Molloy called “profound detrimental impacts in terms of lingering anxiety, mistrust [especially of men consuming alcohol], inability to form new relationships, and the development of an eating disorder.”
Molloy said the woman had written: “I don’t want a body that can lead someone to feel justified in sexually assaulting me again.”
The woman told her boyfriend what had happened. The next day, he confronted Leadbeater and left with a handwritten letter of apology from Leadbeater intended for his girlfriend.
Molloy noted letter remained folded and unread in until she later gave it to an investigating RCMP officer. The letter asks for the woman’s forgiveness, stating Leadbeater was “totally out of line” and in “a total violation of your personal space.”
At his trial, Leadbeater said he wrote the apology because what he characterized as an “unintentional and incidental contact” of his hand with the woman’s breast created a situation where she felt unsafe.
Molloy said he did not believe Leadbeater’s account, adding his conduct “had a significant traumatic impact” on a woman who had “no reason to believe that acting a designated driver for friends would result in the violation of her sexual integrity.”
Leadbeater was under the influence of alcohol but not grossly impaired. Molloy said the “disinhibiting effect” from the alcohol explains his conduct, but does not excuse it.
Leadbeater now has a partner and child and is employed in the construction industry in Ontario. He has one prior conviction from Ontario for impaired driving in 2015.
During earlier sentencing arguments, Crown prosecutor Jacqueline Halliburn recommended a three-month conditional sentence, or house arrest, followed by a one-year period of supervised probation.
Defence lawyer Baljindar Rattan asked the court to grant a conditional discharge with a period of probation of between 12 and 18 months.
Molloy sentenced Leadbeater to 30 days in jail, to be served in his current community. Conditions include reporting to a supervisor, abstaining from alcohol or illegal dugs, and remaining inside his residence except to go to work, church, medical appointments, and for four hours of personal time every Saturday afternoon.
During that sentence and for the following year on probation, Leadbeater must not contact the woman. He will be under an abstention order and will have to perform 60 hours of community service in Ontario.
He will also have to provide a sample for the national DNA databank and be on the sex offenders’ registry for 10 years.