22-year-old Yorkton man is in prison in Regina after pleading guilty February 13 at Yorkton Provincial Court to sexual assault, uttering threats and unlawful confinement.
Judge Ross Green sentenced Layne Warren Stehr to 10 months in jail, accepting a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence.
Prior to the sentencing hearing the question before the Court was whether the case should have been handled through mental health and addictions, but prosecutor Barrie Stricker argued the “tenor” of psychological and psychiatric reports clearly indicated it was a matter for the criminal justice system although there were significant elements of mental illness present.
Through negotiations with defence counsel Fred Fisher, the Crown dropped the original charge of aggravated sexual assault in favour of a lesser charge of sexual assault. Stricker also withdrew a fourth charge of operating a motor vehicle in a manner dangerous to the public.
On January 13, Yorkton RCMP received a complaint from the victim, who cannot be named subject to a publication ban. She told police that Stehr, her ex-boyfriend, had picked her up at Painted Hand Casino and proceeded to drive out of town on Hwy 9 at speeds of up to 160 kph. When she yelled at him to stop, he undid her seatbelt and threatened to drive into an oncoming vehicle.
Eventually he stopped by the side of the road. He punched her and pulled her hair, then put his hand down her pants and molested her aggressively.
When she tried to escape, he prevented her from getting out of the car. After a short period, he drove her back to Yorkton.
According to the Crown, when police picked Stehr up, he admitted he was mad that the woman had broken up with him and was sleeping with one of his friends. He confessed to the elements of the crimes as described by the victim.
He said he took pleasure in the fact that she thought she was going to die when he was driving at reckless speed. With respect to the sexual assault, he said he wanted her to think of him when she was sleeping with others. He also admitted to having “hurtful, mean thoughts” including wanting to leave her dead in the ditch.
Stricker reported to the Court that police said he showed no remorse during his interrogation.
The prosecutor also presented Stehr’s criminal record, which he characterized as “not particularly complete.” The young man had previously served a conditional sentence for two assaults and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Stricker said he and the defence had arrived at the sentence recommendation based on Stehr’s age, his lack of previous sexual assaults and the psychological reports. He requested the defendant receive credit for one-month time served and two years probation following his incarceration. In addition to the standard probation conditions, Stricker asked that Stehr be required to undergo alcohol and drug, sex offender, anger management, psychological and psychiatric treatment; have no contact with the victim, directly or indirectly; not possess or consume alcohol or illegal drugs; consent to random, on-demand breath, urine or blood testing; be subject to a mandatory minimum 10-year weapons prohibition; supply a DNA sample; and register with the sex offenders registry for 10 years.
Fisher also argued for the recommendation telling the Court his client was single, had no children, had been working up until the time of his arrest and has aspirations of going into business for himself.
The attorney said his client understood the seriousness of his offences and was willing to consent to all of the probation conditions. He said Stehr acknowledges he has anger management issues exacerbated by a drug problem.
Fisher argued that the confinement was more of an act of compassion, saying his client was concerned about the woman being left out in the cold to fend for herself and make her way back to town. That, the lawyer said, combined with the relatively short duration of the incident was further rationale for the sentence. He said incarceration on the basis of deterrence as set out in Section 718 of the Criminal Code was “within reason.”
The defence also asked that the judge put an endorsement on the sentence order that would allow the young man to be eligible for drug addiction treatment while at the Regina Correctional Centre.
In his own defence, Stehr was concise and contrite.
“I do know that I did a lot of things really wrong,” he said. “I just hope I can do better in the future. I hope I didn’t hurt anybody too bad.
In passing the recommended sentence, Judge Green said there was “no option other than internment. He said he had considered the victim impact statement, which showed the attack had had “a huge effect on the victim.”
Nevertheless, he said the fact the assault had been “touching, although aggressive, as opposed to intercourse,” which he characterized as being on the “low end of the scale,” warranted the proposed punishment. He also considered that the accused had no prior sexual assault history and had entered an early guilty plea saving the victim from having to testify.
The judge imposed the penalty of 10 months less one-month time-served and two years probation on the sexual assault charge, as well as, 10 months each for uttering threats and unlawful confinement to be served concurrently. He also agreed to include the endorsement that will allow Stehr to participate in addictions programming while in jail.
Green accepted the probation conditions with the exception of the clause to provide breath, urine or blood samples on demand. Citing R. v. Shoker, a 2011 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled this clause unconstitutional, the judge said he was uncomfortable imposing the order although he thought there may be legislation pending in Parliament to challenge Shoker.
In fact, the Harper government passed an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada in December 2011 called the Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Shoker Act.