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B.C. mother who sexually assaulted 15-year-old boy wins reduced sentence on appeal

The courthouse in Victoria is shown in this file photo (CTV News) The courthouse in Victoria is shown in this file photo (CTV News)
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A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has reduced the prison sentence of a Greater Victoria mother who was found guilty of luring and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

The woman, who is identified in court documents only as "Ms. P.," was sentenced in Colwood last September to five and a half years in prison for two counts of sexual assault and one count of internet luring.

Ms. P. appealed the sentence and won a variance on Monday from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Saunders, who reduced her prison term to three years.

The crimes stemmed from an incident in April 2020, when a 25-year-old Ms. P and her friend encountered a group of boys from their neighbourhood who asked the women to provide them with alcohol in exchange for some cannabis.

The women agreed and bought alcohol for the boys, who then joined the women for a party. During the party, Ms. P. had sex with one of the boys in her bedroom.

A few days later, Ms. P. sent a text message to the 15-year-old boy, inviting him back to her house for a "hot make-out sesh."

The boy accepted the invite and went back to her house where the two again had sex, leading to the second count of sexual assault and the charge of internet luring.

The experience left the boy with diminished self-esteem and persistent difficulty finding happiness in the things he used to enjoy, he told the trial judge in a victim impact statement.

"After this happened, I stopped caring about life, and I don’t really try anymore," the victim said.

"I don’t care what foot goes forward – before I cared about school and my grades, lacrosse, but this changed my outlook on that. I started overthinking everything… I just sit by myself and think about stupid stuff that I can’t control and I feel stuck in those thoughts."

Provincial court judge Ted Gouge cited the boy's continued emotional and physical suffering as factors in his sentencing decision. He also wrote that imposing a lesser sentence on Ms. P. because she is a woman "would infringe the rights of male offenders."

"It is necessary to reject the stereotype that teenage boys are less vulnerable to the sequelae of sexual assault than are teenage girls," he wrote.

The trial judge sentenced Ms. P. to two years for each count of sexual assault, and a further 18 months for luring, all to be served consecutively, for a total sentence of five and a half years.

SENTENCE WAS 'DEMONSTRABLY UNFIT'

Ms. P. testified at trial that she asked the victim three times to confirm that he was 18 years old. She admitted under cross-examination that she was "a little skeptical" of his affirmation that he wasn't a minor.

"The trial judge found that she had been conscious of the risk that he might be under age 16; that it was this awareness on her part that had led her to ask him three times to state his age; and that her proceeding to have intercourse with him despite her skepticism was reckless, depriving her of the right to rely on the defence of mistake of age," the B.C. Supreme Court judge wrote in his decision to reduce the sentence.

The higher court found the trial judge "made several material errors in principle, and pronounced a total sentence that is demonstrably unfit."

Chief among the errors Saunders found was the lower court judge’s failure to apply the "totality principle," whereby when "consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh."

"The trial judge, from his reading of the pre-sentence report and a letter of reference from her employer, expressed his own concern that the appellant did not appear to understand that she as the adult had been the one responsible for preventing sexual activity," the judge wrote.

"A full accounting of the appellant’s moral culpability also ought to have recognized that though the offences were separate, they were all rooted in the appellant’s initial reckless failure to ascertain her victim’s true age," Saunders added.

"Further, consideration of her moral culpability on the luring charge ought to have recognized that though a telecommunications device had been used to intrude on the victim’s sphere of privacy, exposing him to sexual exploitation, this was not a case of electronic media being used to 'groom' a potential victim, and the degree of intrusion through text messaging was on the low end of the scale."

Ms. P., who is the primary caregiver to her young son, and who has no prior criminal history, was resentenced to two years for the first count of sexual assault and one year for the second count, to be served consecutively. She was also handed a concurrent sentence of one year for child luring. 

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