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No jail for Richmond man convicted of sexual interference of under-aged niece

The man will be serving his sentence of almost two years in the community under house arrest.
Richmond Provincial Court 1
A Richmond man was found guilty of sexually assaulting his underage niece back in October 2023.

Warning: This story contains details of sexual assault that may be disturbing to some readers.

A 47-year-old Richmond man, who was convicted of sexual interference of his niece when she was 12 years old, was sentenced on Thursday afternoon to almost two years of house arrest and three years of probation.

A publication ban is in place to protect the victim's identity.

The Richmond News previously reported in October 2023 that the man, described as a "father figure" to the victim, was found guilty of one count each of sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under 16 years old for four incidents that took place between 2015 and 2016.

A trial was held between February and June last year and the man was convicted on Sept. 27. 

At his sentencing in Richmond Provincial Court on May 23, Judge Diana Vandor stayed his sexual assault conviction and only sentenced him for one count of sexual interference.

The man, the victim and their family members appeared in person to receive his sentence.

During the trial, the victim detailed incidents where her uncle touched her inappropriately in a vehicle after returning from church; touched her while they were on his bed with her sister watching videos; touched her in a wave pool during a family trip to Watermania; and pressed himself against her buttocks in his bedroom.

The victim and her siblings lived in the same home with their grandparents, the man, his wife and their newborn baby at the time of the incidents.

The court heard that the victim told her grandmother about the incidents in private when she was 12 years old but was told not to tell anyone, which the grandmother denied in court.

The victim would go on to report the incidents to the police a few years later.

Although the man denied the allegations during the trial and the victim's sister gave evidence in support of the man, Vandor found she had "no doubt" the acts happened and did not accept the defence's suggestion that the victim had fabricated the allegations.

'Don't be afraid to speak up,' says victim

During the sentencing on Thursday, Vandor referred to the victim's impact statement, where the victim spoke of "significant" and "ongoing" harm including mental health struggles and the loss of a community.

The victim mentioned family members told her to "leave it alone" and it was "in the past," but she felt the need to speak up.

She added she felt empowered through her testimony.

"I don't have to be the victim with this anymore, because the court's heard my voice," reads the victim's impact statement.

"Don't be afraid to speak up if something feels wrong," the victim added.

No jail sentence for the man

Vandor considered aggravating factors including the location of the offences, where the victim was entitled to feel safe, the abuse of the man's position of trust as a father figure to the victim, the impact on the victim and the abuse of a female child who is a member of a First Nation and was also vulnerable due to her disability.

Mitigating factors, on the other hand, included the man's lack of a criminal record, his low risk of re-offending as assessed by an expert and strong support from his family and religious community.

Despite the mitigating factors, Vandor noted the nature of his crime demonstrated a "high degree of moral blameworthiness" on his part.

"He used his good character as a trusted member of this family to commit this crime. He cannot now rely on that good character," said Vandor.

The prosecution sought a jail sentence of two and a half to three years but Vandor ultimately agreed with defence that the appropriate sentence would be a conditional sentence order of two years less one day, served through house arrest with exceptions such as for employment, followed by a three-year probation with a curfew.

His conditions include no contact with the victim, no going to public parks and other areas where girls under 16 years old may be present and no contact with female persons under 16 years old unless with prior permission from his conditional sentence supervisor. He is also required to attend any programming and treatment such as counselling as directed by his supervisor.

He is allowed to be with female family members under 16 years old if other adults are present and their parents are aware of his conditional sentence order.

The man will also be registered as a sex offender for 20 years, an "onerous and appropriate" order for his case, said Vandor.

"He is exactly the type of person who should be subject to a (Sex Offender Information Registration Act) order to capture information about offenders that may assist police to prevent and investigate offences against children," she explained.

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