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Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge sentences man for sexually assaulting stepdaughter

Justice.
Justice. - File photos

Judge gives stepfather six years in prison, not impressed with defendant’s character witnesses who ‘crossed boundaries’

A 44-year-old man has been sentenced to six years in prison for committing sex-related offences against his teenage stepdaughter over a three-year period.

The sentence was handed down by Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Vikas Khaladkar on July 6, with written reasons for the term filed last week.

Khaladkar convicted the defendant on the charges in March. There is a ban on the man’s name to protect the identity of the victim.

In the sentencing decision, the judge comments on character witnesses called on behalf of the defendant who, during the sentencing hearing, challenged the judge’s earlier decision to convict.

“All three of the offender’s references made mention of his positive attributes, including his kindness towards them and others and his generosity,” Khaladkar stated. “All three also saw fit to express their opinion that the offender was incapable of committing the crimes of which he had been convicted and that he had been wrongfully convicted. Some saw fit to invite me to contact them for additional information on the issue of the propriety of his conviction.

“Whether or not the offender has been wrongfully convicted is a matter that I am certain will be decided in a higher court. I am not sure, however, that the expression of these sentiments to the sentencing judge who convicted the offender is altogether appropriate. Just as there are parameters governing the content of victim impact statements in criminal matters, so are there some bounds in relation to character references. The statements I have mentioned cross those boundaries. I will ignore them for the purposes of sentencing this offender but have mentioned the issue because, as a matter of practice, the expression of these types of opinions and invitations needs to be discouraged.”

The victim, who is now a young adult, testified during the trial she had gotten out of the shower one day when she was 15 and noticed a camera in one of her shoes in her bedroom. Upon viewing the recording she saw her stepfather in it setting the camera up. The young woman said she told her stepfather she had had a sexual encounter with his brother months earlier. Her stepfather told her that if he went to the police with that information, the family would likely split up, the woman’s mother would hate her and her pet dog would die.

While the victim told the court the intercourse was “not against my will,” she was not legally able to consent to it. By law, a person under the age of 16 cannot give consent to a person more than four years older than they are. If the sexual activity includes elements such as anal sex, payment or pornography, or involves a person in a position of trust or authority, the age of consent is 18 years. All sexual activity without consent is unlawful.

The young woman said she had tried to end the relationship many times, but her stepfather became “cold and hateful” and was going to take everything from her. The victim eventually told her mother what was happening and the stepfather was kicked out of the house and the police called.

The defendant was charged, and so was his brother.

After a weeklong trial in provincial court last summer, the brother was acquitted of six child-sex charges.

Khaladkar’s sentencing decision summary noted the “offender was the complainant’s stepfather and occupied a position of trust. The offences stem from a relationship that the offender engineered and promoted over a three-year-period. Although the offender has no previous criminal record, denunciation and deterrence are the main applicable sentencing principles. The offences took place over a period of three years from the time that the complainant was 15 years of age until she became 18 years of age.”

Khaladkar also noted the defendant has appealed his conviction, thus “it would not be appropriate, under the circumstances, to expect him to proffer any expressions of remorse or to expect him to acknowledge that counselling or treatment services would be of any benefit to him,” Khaladkar said. “I do not consider his position aggravating but cannot completely assess his prospects for rehabilitation because of it.”

During the trial, the man denied the offences, but Khaladkar found his testimony to be “contrived, insincere and glib” and convicted him on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation while in a position of trust or authority.

In addition to the six-year prison term, Khaladkar ordered that the defendant provide a sample of his DNA to authorities; be named to the national sex offender registry; have no contact or communication with the victim during the custodial period of sentence; and be prohibited from possessing firearms for 10 years.

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