Crown seeks 3 years custody for North Van youth found guilty of violent sexual assault

A Crown prosecutor is asking that a North Vancouver youth found guilty of aggravated sexual assault at a grad party two years ago spend the next three years in a youth custody centre.

Crown counsel Hank Reiner asked Judge Paul Meyers for the sentence to be served in a youth detention centre at a sentencing hearing in youth court July 31.

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Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, three years is the maximum sentence that can be handed out to a youth convicted of a serious crime.

The youth’s defence lawyer, Joe Saulnier, asked that a three-year sentence be served under supervision in the community.

In arguing for a custodial sentence, Reiner said that aggravated sexual assault is a “serious violent offence” under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Reiner pointed to what he called the youth’s callous disregard for the victim of the assault and his failure to get help for her after the sexual assault despite her distress, which Reiner said pointed to a “disturbing lack of empathy.”

Describing how the youth prevented the girl from leaving the washroom stall where the assault took place, Reiner said, “He was determined to get what he wanted and made sure she could not escape.”

Reiner added the youth was “essentially treating (the victim) like a sexual object.”

In a victim impact statement read aloud in court by Reiner, the victim of the assault described how she became afraid of being alone with male friends after the assault. “Men scare me,” she wrote. “I have flashbacks to the assault almost constantly.”

She added she has been consumed by anger and fear, and smothered by even supportive messages.

“Everyone had an idea of what it was like to survive sexual assault,” she wrote, adding later in her statement, “I’m pissed off that people look sad around me.”

Saulnier asked the judge to consider a sentence of three years under supervision in the community for his client, commenting that three years in custody would allow the youth, now 19, no time to reintegrate back into society before being released.

Saulnier pointed to letters of support filed on behalf of the youth, stating that it is possible for good people to commit criminal offences “even serious ones.”

“He has no criminal record,” said Saulnier of his client. “He’s never been in trouble, even at school.”

Saulnier said psychological experts submitted reports which pointed to his client as a low risk to reoffend.

He added that the youth has already suffered social stigma after word of what happened at the night club was spread by teens on social media, despite a publication ban in the case.

Following a lengthy trial, Meyers found the youth guilty in November 2017 of aggravated sexual assault and unlawful confinement of one girl during an unsanctioned grad party for North Shore teens, which happened at the Encore Nightclub on Feb. 28, 2016. He found the youth guilty of an earlier sexual assault of another girl on Oct. 24, 2015.

Saulnier indicated outside the court that he will likely be filing an appeal at the conclusion of the case.

Meyers is expected to give his sentencing decision in October.

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