A family is fuming after what was supposed to be a sentencing hearing for close to eight years of sexual assaults on a youth was pushed back to April — a move that will likely mean the victim will have to testify on the matter.
According to the court informations, the man is accused of sexually assaulting his then-stepdaughter, who was under the age of 16, between Jan. 1, 2009 and July 18, 2016 in Okanagan Falls. Due to the young age of the victim and the accused’s relationship to her, neither of their names can be published.
The man was up for a sentencing hearing after entering guilty pleas to sex assault and sexual interference of a minor, but at the last minute he asked to see his legal counsel, James Pennington. It was quickly apparent the sentencing hearing wouldn’t be moving forward.
“I understand that (the accused) is taking issue with the alleged facts,” Crown lawyer Nashina Devji said after the court reconvened.
“Unfortunately, those are my instructions,” Pennington acknowledged.
Though the accused is not attempting to pull his guilty pleas — a legal process that includes an exceptionally high bar to clear — the change of heart does put a wrench in the proceedings.
“What it looks like this matter will need to go to a sentencing hearing in which the Crown will be required to call evidence,” Devji said.
Had the sentencing hearing gone forward, the victim would not have needed to testify, nor stand through to cross-examination, something Judge Gale Sinclair appeared exasperated from.
“I feel sorry for her,” he said. “Folks, sometimes there’s an easy way, sometimes there’s a hard way. (The accused) wants the hard way, so he will get it, I guess.”
The Crown and defence had a joint sentencing agreement ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, but said with the accused challenging the facts, that deal is “out the window.”
The victim’s family appeared livid in the courtroom at the process being stalled, especially as the girl returns to college for another semester in January. Because of her schooling, the sentencing hearing will not move forward until after exams in April.
“It needed to be done today. It’s been since a year-and-a-half, he was arrested on Oct. 1 of last year,” she said. “This is not OK. This has been going on for too long. … This little girl is going through that, has to go through university with all of this going on. It’s not OK, it’s not alright.”
On that, Sinclair appeared sympathetic toward the family and the victim.
“I fully understand that she’s going to be victimized again,” Sinclair said.
The matter is going to the judicial case manager in early January to determine an anticipated one-day sentencing hearing in April.
That sentencing hearing will be presided over by another judge, with Sinclair set to fully retire in March.