Thursday, July 15, 2010
Abused aboriginal elder should not receive jail for sexual assault
A native elder and jail counsellor abused his position of trust when he coerced a Winnipeg Remand Centre inmate to provide him with oral sex, a judge was told Wednesday.
“If you are looking after individuals who are incarcerated, who have little or no place to turn … to then turn on them and impose your will in a sexual fashion is clearly something that cries out for a very strong message,” special prosecutor Don Knight said.
Knight urged Judge Patti Umpherville to sentence Neil Hall to 18 months in jail.
Hall, 55, previously pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault.
Court heard the then 29-year-old victim was incarcerated at WRC in April 2006 when she asked to meet Hall in his office for a smudge.
During the smudge, Hall asked the woman to lift up her shirt and expose her breasts, Knight said. The woman refused and left his office a short time later.
During later visits to Hall’s office, Hall gave the woman cigarettes in exchange for the woman exposing her breasts. The sexual contact escalated with Hall offering the woman $40 for oral sex. The woman performed oral sex on Hall three or four times before she was released from custody the following June.
Hall never paid the woman, but “said he could put in a good word for her and help her get out early,” Knight said.
Hall told the woman she could live with him when she was released from jail. When she later called Hall to take him up on his offer “she realized he had been lying to her,” Knight said.
The victim was described as a vulnerable person in the care of the public trustee.
Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds argued the Crown would have had a very weak case against Hall had he not reported to police and provided a voluntary statement.
“Had he chosen not to” the likelihood of prosecution was “realistically nill,” said Simmonds, who urged Umpherville to allow Hall to serve a conditional sentence in the community.
Hall claimed it was the woman who offered sexual favours in exchange for money.
“He realizes what he did was inappropriate, because even if it was consensual, he still was in a position of trust,” Simmonds said.
Hall is a residential school survivor who suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his teachers and fellow students, Simmonds said. He no longer works as a counsellor and lives on social assistance.
“The fall from grace as a result of this has lost him the respect of his community,” Simmonds said. “He is now trying to attain some of that back.”
Hall will be sentenced July 23.
This man should NOT be sentenced to prison. I do not believe he is a danger to the safety of the community. He knows that his actions were unacceptable and wrong. Being abused can cause individuals brain chemical deficiencies, where they actually abuse others. I believe that we need to address the root causes of this man's criminal behaviour, and the best way to do so, is not through prison. A conditional sentence would be more appropriate where he could receive counseling and sex offender treatment and risk management programming.