Appeal Court chops sentence for sex offender in half due to judge's error

B.C.'s highest court has cut in half the sentence for a sex offender after finding the sentencing judge wrongly rejected a joint submission.

B.C.’s highest court has cut in half the sentence imposed on a man who was convicted of sexually assaulting five children.

The sex offender, only identified by the initials C.R.H. due to a publication ban, entered guilty pleas to the offences on Jan. 29, 2020 in provincial court.

Four of the victims lived in an extended family-like arrangement with C.R.H. and his wife, one of them being allegedly assaulted at least 20 times when she was between 11 and 12 years of age.

One of the offences related to a sexual assault C.R.H., 42, committed against his seven-year-old cousin in 1995, when he was 17 years old.

The Crown and defence made a joint submission calling for a sentence of two years less a day in jail for four of the offences and a period of 12 months probation less a day for the offence he’d committed as a youth, to be served concurrently.

The sentencing judge, who is not identified in the Appeal Court ruling on the case, said that the joint submission was “extraordinarily lenient” and added he was leaning in favour of a federal sentence.

He rejected the joint submission and in October last year imposed a four-year jail term.

C.R.H. appealed the sentence and in a ruling posted at the court’s website Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.

The offender and the Crown argued that while the judge referred to the guiding law on a sentencing judge’s approach to a joint submission, he did not in fact apply it.

In his reasons for judgment, B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Robert Bauman found that the judge had not fully considered the benefits of the joint submission process.

The judge referred to the specific benefits accruing generally to the joint submission process but did so as though those benefits were simply generic, said Chief Justice Bauman.

“The judge simply said “there are many, many benefits to accepting joint submissions.” These are not cogent reasons for departing from the joint submission in this case.”

Bauman noted that the Crown case had certain vulnerabilities that left a conviction uncertain with the only prosecution matter that was described as “very strong” being the youth offence.

“Given this context, the number of young complainants, and the concerns for their re-traumatization as prolonged by the procedural consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both parties found the their joint position was in the public interest,” he said.

“And the judge did not address these factors in finding that the joint position was contrary to the public interest.”

The Appeal Court set the new sentence for C.R.H. at two years in prison. Bauman’s reasons were agreed to by Justice Mary Saunders and Justice Richard Goepel.

Appeal Court chops sentence for sex offender in half due to judge's error