By Herald on September 17, 2020.
A 52-year-old Raymond man convicted last year of sexually assaulting two underage cousins when he was 18 has been sent to prison for five years.
Marvin Ross Harker, who can be identified after a publication ban was lifted Thursday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench, was hoping for a non-custodial sentence, or at most, a short jail sentence he could serve on weekends. But Madam Justice Johnna Kubik said the major sexual assaults he committed warranted a penitentiary term.
“On the basis of all of the facts of this case, I am satisfied that a period of imprisonment is required to ensure a fit and just sentence,” Kubik said moments before sentencing Harker.
Kubik sentenced Harker to three years in prison for assaulting one of his cousins, and five years for assaulting another, but reduced the global sentence to five years.
“Having regard to the principle of restraint and the principle of totality, I must ensure that the total sentence does not exceed your overall culpability,” Kubik added.
She declined to determine a period of parole eligibility.
Kubik convicted Harker in December 2019 on two counts of sexual assault against the two women between 1986 and 1987 when they were between the ages of eight and 13. She found him not guilty, however, of sexual assault and sexual interference in relation to a third woman.
The man admitted he assaulted one of the women multiple times in August 1986 when he was 18, but he denied assaulting the other two women, one of whom testified during trial that the last time he assaulted her was one week before his wedding in 1993.
Lethbridge lawyer Robert Bissett invited the judge in his closing arguments during trial last year to convict his client on one count of sexual assault in relation to the one woman, but he said a second woman was simply confused about the dates of the assaults, which actually occurred when the accused was a youth, not an adult. He has already served a sentenced in relation to assaults on the women when he was a youth.
The third woman, Bissett suggested, offered unreliable evidence during her testimony earlier in the trial as she tried to remember what happened more than 30 years ago when she was a child.
Reading from a victim impact statement, one of the women said in court last month the assaults caused her irreparable harm, and she is still unable to forgive him.
Bissett had also recommended either a suspended sentence or conditional sentence for his client, but Kubik pointed out the offences were too serious, and her decision aligned closely with the Crown’s recommendation for a prison term of five to seven years.
Crown prosecutor Erin Olsen said following Thursday’s sentencing, that sexual abuse against children is a violent crime, which society must denounce.
“It reflects both our values as a society and what we value as a society, and that includes the safety and rights of children,” Olsen said. “Allowing people to do this to children, now or 30 years ago, without serious consequences, is to say that we do not find those acts morally reprehensible and that we do not value the lives of those most in need of our protection. It is something that must be done.”
Co-Crown Prosecutor Dawn Janecke agreed and said young, impressionable children are vulnerable to abuse by predators and must be protected.
In addition to the prison sentence, Kubik ordered Harker to submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Databank and to receive counselling and treatment. He will be registered with the national Sex Offender Information Registry for life, and he is prohibited from possessing weapons for five years.
Kubik noted that although Harker has changed his life since the offences, is a respected member of his community and is a low risk to re-offend, the sentence must still reflect the offences, despite the passing of time.
“A fit and just sentence is one that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender,” she said.
Kubik also ruled on a defence application asking she stay her conviction because too much time had passed leading up to Harker’s sentencing. Kubik pointed out, however, delays are warranted under “exceptional circumstances,” and she could think of no greater exceptional circumstances than COVID-19.
“I am satisfied this delay is not unreasonable.”
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