An Okanagan Falls man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for sexual assault against his underage stepdaughter over several years.
With time served, the man, who cannot be named due to a publication ban on anything that could identify the victim, has more than five years four months left in his sentence.
The case has been an unusually long process since his guilty plea was entered, due to the man disputing facts over the duration and frequency of his abuse of his stepdaughter. The dispute led to a trial over those facts for the purposes of sentencing, which dragged out intermittently over several weeks.
While the victim reported that the abuse had run from age 11 to 16, the abuser countered that it had occurred for a far shorter period. Judge Gregory Koturbash found the victim’s testimony to be truthful.
In a sentencing hearing that ran most of the day Friday, Crown lawyer Nashina Devji excoriated the man for his actions not only molesting and raping his step-daughter, but during the court proceedings as well.
“In giving his evidence, (he) engaged in what I say is a disgusting display of victim blaming. He identified this child as essentially seductress, flipping his hair in his face and coming up and cuddling him. He saw himself as a victim in all of thi,” Devji said.
While a guilty plea is typically seen as a mitigating factor, Devji said that is only because it cuts down on court times, witness time and does not force the victim to testify. But because he disputed the facts, the court case was drawn out and did require testimony from the victim.
The man, speaking to the court prior to the delivery of the sentence, said contrary to the Crown’s statement that he had no remorse that he was sorry for the matter. He continued to deny the duration and frequency of the abuse he put his step-daughter through.
Devji noted that the victim did not want to speak out about her experience, worried the truth would tear the family apart, and indeed, it did.
Though she has had the support of her grandmother, who ultimately went to police, the victim’s mother now blames her for tearing the family apart and does not believe the victim.
In fact, within hours of the final sentencing hearing Friday, the mother had sent a text message to tell the victim she is cutting off her access to her brother and sister, who still live with the mother.
“I appreciate that (the mother) is not on trial today, but I do have a few short words for her. … Parenting requires love, not DNA. Parenting means you put above your own selfish interests the interest of the child first,” Koturbash said in sentencing.
“Unfortunately a child does not get to choose who their parents are. Fortunately for (the victim), her maternal grandmother, who, despite being disowned by her own daughter and other family members, had the courage to support (the victim) through this process and continues to do so.”
While a victim impact statement from the victim was only submitted in writing, the grandmother gave an impassioned speech against the abuser.
“I’m angry that I’ve been made out to be the cause of this simply because I phoned the police. All these years, I have always been very vocal about sexual predators and molesters and what should happen to them. And funny enough, it was right under my nose all the time,” she said.
“She told you ‘no’ and she was going to tell, but you never stopped, and I hate you for that. How can I not hate you for that? And I never thought I could really, really hate anyone. But I’ve been proved wrong, and I will never forgive you for that.”
In sentencing, Koturbash and Devji had a lengthy discussion over the Crown submission of nine to 10 years imprisonment for the charge. Case law Devji had brought to back that submission had mostly come from Ontario, and Koturbash said most of the case law he had found in B.C. had been somewhat lighter sentences.
Koturbash said he was worried that a sentence of nine to 10 years, which he said could very well be the longest sentence in B.C. history for such a charge, would be overturned in B.C. Appeals Court without the case law to back it.
The defence had suggested a 30-month sentence on top of time served, adding up to about five years in total.
While Friday’s hearing was intended to finally put the case to rest, a breach of a bail order, which he has also pleaded guilty to, was also disputed by the man on Friday, dragging that into yet another sentencing hearing.
In the breach, the man was ordered not to be alone with children, but was found alone with the victim’s sister and her friend.