A Colwood mother convicted of internet luring and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in April 2020 has successfully appealed her 5½ year “unduly long or harsh” prison sentence.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Saunders reduced the woman’s sentence to three years, finding that the trial judge erred in failing to properly apply the totality principle of Canadian law which states: “Where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh.”
The woman, who can only be identified as Ms. P., was convicted of internet luring and two counts of sexually assaulting the teen in November 2021.
The trial heard that in April 2020, she lived in a townhouse in a Colwood development. One evening, a group of four boys gathered on the sidewalk outside her home. She and a friend were on their way to the liquor store. The teens offered to trade marijuana for a six-pack of vodka coolers. The women agreed and came back with the six-pack and their own two litres of wine. By this time, the 15-year-old boy had joined the group.
The two women drank wine. The boys smoked dope and drank the coolers. Everyone was intoxicated to some degree. Then the woman began an erotic solo dance, removing some of her clothing. She sat on the 15-year-old’s lap. They began to kiss, then went upstairs and had sex. The woman testified that she asked “Are you sure you’re 18?” three times. The boy replied “Yes” and “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”
A few days later, she sent a text inviting the 15-year-old to a “hot make-out sesh.” He came over and they had sex on a couch in her garage.
At her sentencing hearing in September 2022, provincial court Judge Ted Gouge said the effect of Ms. P’s offending behaviour on the victim “has been very grave indeed.”
In his victim impact statement, the teen wrote that he had hit a wall and was lost and confused.
“I stopped caring about life and I don’t really try anymore … I really struggle with my self-esteem now. I don’t like myself.”
Gouge said it is necessary to reject the stereotype that teenage boys are less vulnerable to sexual assault than teenage girls.
“And to impose a lesser sentence on a female offender than a male offender infringes the rights of male offenders under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he wrote, then imposed the maximum sentence of two years less a day for each count of sexual assault and an 18-month sentence for internet luring. The sentences were all consecutive.
Ms. P. immediately appealed her sentence, seeking a reduced sentence or a conditional sentence
Saunders found that although the offences were separate, the woman’s moral culpability was rooted in her “initial reckless failure” to find out her victim’s true age. He also found the luring charge — the text message — was on the low end of the scale and not a case of electronic media being used to “groom” a potential victim.
“These considerations militated against the total sentence simply being the sum of separate consecutive sentences,” he wrote.
Saunders found that Gouge was heavily influenced by the Supreme Court of Canada case, R. v. Friesen, which governs sentencing in cases of sexual assault upon a child. The Friesen case says the courts must send a strong message that sexual offences against children are violent crimes that wrongfully exploit children’s vulnerability and cause profound harm to children, families, and communities. Sentences for these crimes must increase.
Saunders noted that the circumstances of the Friesen case were vastly different. The accused in that case inflicted sexual violence on a four-year-old child, with the child’s mother participating. The accused’s likelihood of reoffending was judged to be high.
Ms. P. was young and the primary caregiver to her son. She had no criminal record and her risk of re-offending was low, noted Saunders.
“I find that a fit global sentence is a term of three years. This is sufficient to recognize the gravity of the offences, the primacy of the objectives of denunciation and deterrence, and the appellant’s moral culpability. “
Saunders reduced the sentence to two years on the first count of sexual assault, one year on the second count of sexual assault, to be served consecutively; and one year on the luring count, to be served concurrently.