A former Sturgis Elementary School teacher will not be incarcerated for the sexual assault of a 12-year-old Yorkton girl.
In an oral decision October 11, Judge Darin Chow issued a suspended sentence with 18 months probation to Trevor Latham.
The victim’s father said he did not begrudge the Court for not imposing jail time.
“It’s been a very trying experience for our family and especially for our daughter,” he said. “We’re relieved it’s over and that justice was served. I was glad he didn’t get a discharge as in the Tillman case.”
Eric Tillman, the former General Manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, received an absolute discharge after admitting to molesting his children’s babysitter.
Latham pleaded guilty September 10 to one count of sexual assault. The judge summarized the facts of the case, which, he said, were “not in dispute.”
On January 10 of this year, Latham had been drinking with the victim’s father, who offered the accused a room for the night because he, Latham, was too intoxicated to drive.
During the night Latham entered the child’s room and asked if he could lie down with her. She acquiesced, but became uncomfortable when he started rubbing her belly and kissing her on the cheek. When he said, “it’s okay,” she said it wasn’t because he was an adult and she was just a kid.
He left, but returned three or four times during the night. Latham claimed he had no recollection of the events because of an extreme state of intoxication, but accepted the veracity of the girl’s complaint.
At a sentencing hearing September 24, the Crown, represented by Regina senior prosecutor William Burge, asked for incarceration, but left the length of the sentence at the discretion of the court.
Regina defence attorney Aaron Fox argued for a conditional discharge citing the Tillman case as a precedent. Fox also defended Tillman.
Judge Chow reviewed section 718 of the Criminal Code that deals with the purposes of sentencing focussing on the subsection that states the Court shall give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence in cases that involve the abuse of a person under the age of 18.
Chow said sexual assault—which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years when the Crown proceeds by summary conviction as in this case—is “very serious,” but said he was satisfied this incident was at the “lower end of the range.”
He cited mitigating circumstances that Latham had been cooperative; fully acknowledged responsibility for his actions; pleaded guilty saving the family from having to testify; offered an apology; was otherwise of good character, based on numerous letters of support; did not use, or threaten to use, violence; and had no previous criminal record.
The judge said he had no doubt Latham’s remorse was sincere and called the offence an “aberration.”
Chow also outlined what he viewed as aggravating circumstances including the victim impact statements of the girl and her parents; the girl’s age; and the location of the offence in the girl’s own bed where she had “a right to feel safe,” which the judge called “particularly repugnant.”
He also found that although Latham had not technically “abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim” as prescribed in another subsection of the purposes of sentencing, that he, Chow, still found it relevant because Latham had been a friend of the family.
Finally, the judge dealt with the availability to the Court of a discharge referring to Section 730 of the Code, which states the Court may “if it considers it to be in the best interests of the accused and not contrary to the public interest, instead of convicting the accused, by order direct that the accused be discharged absolutely or on the conditions prescribed in a probation order....”
Chow said that while he was satisfied a discharge would be in Latham’s best interests, he was equally satisfied it would be contrary to the public interest.
The judge cited Tillman saying that although in some respects Latham’s actual actions were less egregious than Tillman’s, the differentiating factor was that Latham acted in the girl’s own bed. Furthermore, Chow said, while Tillman’s intoxication had been the result of an unexpected interaction of prescription drugs, Latham’s had been self-induced making his culpability higher and the gravity of the crime greater.
For those reasons, the judge said, a discharge was inadequate and unfit for denunciation and deterrence, but that incarceration was equally inadequate and unfit for Latham’s best interests.
Chow suspended the sentence, giving Latham 18 months probation. In addition to the statutory conditions, the former teacher will be required to attend addictions assessment and treatment as prescribed by his probation officer and have no contact with the victim.
The judge did not impose a similar condition with respect to the girl’s parents saying as adults they could make up their own minds whether they wanted to have any contact with Latham in the future.
Because sexual assault is a primary designated offence, Latham is also required to provide a sample of his DNA and register with the National Sex Offender Registry for 10 years.