An NWT man was sentenced Jan. 18, to 14 months in custody for sexually assaulting a sleeping teenager in the Beaufort-Delta region.
On the night of the offence, the man had been invited over to the residence to drink with another resident of the victim’s household. The man, 24 at the time, went upstairs to use the washroom on the second floor and subsequently entered the sleeping girl’s room instead of rejoining his friend downstairs.
The offender, who said his memory of the night is limited, was physically removed from the residence.
A publication ban prevents NNSL Media from disclosing information that could identify the victim, including the name of the offender and the community where the 2018 offence took place.
Though the girl asked for her victim impact statement to not be read out in court, Crown Prosecutor Jacqueline Halliburn told the court that the event has “changed her life” and “impacted her ability to interact with people in a normal and healthy way.”
The court heard that the offence led to the girl dropping out of school, feeling ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and depressed.
In delivering her sentence, Justice Shannon Smallwood said it was “aggravating” that the man abused a minor asleep in her own home.
She noted that many girls in the NWT are abused “in places where they should feel safe.”
“They are abused by no fault of their own,” she said “often by men under the influence of alcohol.
In this case, the victim was “at the mercy of (the offender),” “an invited guest into their home,” Smallwood said.
The court heard that a number of letters of support were submitted on behalf of the offender. “I don’t know that I’ve ever had a case with this many letters of support,” said defence lawyer Kate Oja.
At the time of the offence, the court heard that the man had been “getting blackout drunk every weekend” and using crack cocaine. He is now 14 months sober, since November 2019.
“The letters suggest that if (he) can maintain sobriety, he won’t re-offend,” Oja said.
Before receiving his sentence, the man apologized for actions. He thanked his wife and family, who were present in the courtroom, for their love and support and said he hopes to continue treatment with his counsellor while in custody.
Smallwood said she “accepts that he is genuinely remorseful for what he did” and that his “efforts for rehabilitation are to be commended.”
While the man’s guilty plea is considered late since trial had already begun when the new plea was entered, Smallwood said it is still mitigating since it “saved” the victim from testifying and removes any lingering doubt about what may have happened.
After the man’s 14 month sentence, he will be on probation for two-and-a-half years.
The offender will be barred from use of firearms for 10 years after his release and will remain on the sexual offender registry for 20 years.
In addition to continuing with counselling as directed, the man was ordered to avoid contact with the victim.
He is prohibited from attending her place of residence, employment or education. If the man arrives at a location where the girl is present, he must leave and may only return once she has vacated.
“The victim appears quite angry as you can understand,” Smallwood said. “Some day you may be able to apologize in person, but it will have to wait until she wants to speak with you.”
Smallwood acknowledged that the crime is a major sexual assault and that denunciation and deterrence are necessary considerations for sentencing. She also noted that the letters submitted on the offender’s behalf are “supportive” and “attest to the changes (he) has made in his life and (his) value in the community.
“I believe if he stays sober he will not be before this court or another court again,” she said. “It will require hard work, but with the support of family and the community I believe (he) can continue to make those good choices.”