May 8, 2015
Following charge of sexual assault, man unable to access programming in wellness court
By John McFadden Northern News Services
A man convicted of sexual assault on Wednesday has received a conditional discharge in territorial court in Yellowknife.
The man, 43, pleaded guilty to touching a woman’s genitals through her clothing while she was in bed at a women’s shelter last July. Crown prosecutor Alex Godfrey said the man, who lives in a nearby shelter, said he entered her room after he found the door unlocked. Yellowknifer has chosen not to publish the man’s name because it is his first criminal offence and it could help to identify the victim. There is a court-ordered publication ban on reporting any information that might identify the victim.
Judge Christine Gagnon gave the man a conditional discharge, in part she said, because sentencing him would require him to be placed on the national sex offender registry (SORA). Godfrey had called for a suspended sentence. The judge noted the registry order is mandatory upon conviction for a sexual assault charge. But she referred to an Ontario court ruling whereby if the convicted person wasn’t sentenced, then he or she didn’t have to be placed on the registry.
“It’s a dilemma,” Gagnon said before her ruling. “The SORA order also comes with a stigmatization.”
The man’s legal aid lawyer Tony Amoud told the court that although his client graduated from Grade 12 in Yellowknife he cannot read or write.
He argued placing his client on the sex offender registry would not be appropriate because he would not be able to read it and understand what it meant, nor would he be able to decipher how to get his name removed from the registry, which he could apply to do,after five years.
Amoud was outraged the man could not be admitted to wellness court because officials with that program told him there is no programming available in the NWT to treat sex offenders.
It is believed the man would have qualified for wellness court because his sexual assault was not overly violent.
“It’s a travesty,” Amoud told the court. “Not just because he couldn’t be admitted to wellness court because of new programming for sex offenders, but also that there is no help out there for sex offenders.”
The victim was not in court for sentencing. Her victim impact statement was read aloud in court by Godfrey.
In it, she stated she has suffered greatly from emotional distress since the assault.
Gagnon did sentence the man to six months probation. Among his conditions are that he not contact the victim unless she and his probation supervisor grant him permission to do so. He must also provide a sample of his DNA.
Court heard the man and the victim were known to each other before the assault. Both suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).