June 19th, 2024

Man guilty of sexual interference faces jail time

By Delon Shurtz on August 11, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A 26-year-old African refugee who was sponsored by a southern Alberta family in 2019, faces jail and possible deportation for assaulting the family’s teenage daughter.
The man, who can’t be identified to protect the identity of the young girl, was initially charged with assault, sexual assault and sexual interference. However, he pleaded guilty in March to the single count of sexual interference, and could go to jail for up to nine months if the judge agrees with a recommendation by the Crown. Defence, on the other hand, is seeking a jail sentence of 90 days, which could be served on weekends.
During a sentencing hearing Monday in Lethbridge provincial court, defence argued the much shorter intermittent sentence would still address denunciation and deterrence, yet allow the offender to be rehabilitated.
“And to be clear, I’m not requesting this sentence because of collateral consequences of immigration,” Shelley Moore said. “I’m requesting this sentence because it is fit and appropriate given the facts (the offender) pled guilty to.”
The offender was living with the victim’s family in late 2019. During the last week of November he was sitting on the couch with the girl, who was 12 years old at the time, and began touching her shoulders and kissing her cheeks and lips. She told him to stop, then ran to her room and locked the door. Fearing he would get in trouble, he told her not to tell anyone.
A week later the man tried two more times to kiss her, and she told a family friend, who met with the offender and explained his conduct was inappropriate. The man apologized, but a week later he approached the girl while she was in the living room and placed his hands under her shirt. He also bit her lower lip and grabbed her neck.
In January of 2020 the girl told her parents about the assaults.
While reading from a victim impact statement Monday, the girl’s father told court that despite taking the refugee into their home and providing him with food and shelter, he committed the assaults and ignored warnings to stop.
The father said his daughter still fears being in some parts of the home, and struggles to trust others. His wife became ill, he added, and they distrust all young men.
“Our family is in a big crisis,” he told the judge.
Crown Prosecutor Adam Zelmer said the appropriate sentence would be between six and nine months in jail, and suggested even the high end of the recommended range might be lenient in this case. He also recommended the offender be placed on probation for two years, and reminded the judge the courts treat offences against children seriously.
The judge adjourned the hearing to allow more time for her to review case law and submissions by the Crown and defence. The matter returns to court Friday to schedule a date for sentencing.

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