WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be triggering to some readers.
A volunteer who spent years at the gardens of a Princeton elementary school was handed a non-custodial sentence of no time in jail for assault and sexual assault involving two children.
From the spring of 2016 to the end of 2017, the 80-year-old befriended two girls who regularly were at the garden and also in a school reading program where the man also volunteered.
‘Mr. A’ pleaded guilty to one count of assault and one count of sexual assault and was sentenced in Penticton provincial court on March 6.
The assault incident happened when Mr. A found one girl pulling out a tree sapling in the garden, and in response pushed her down out of anger.
The circumstances surrounding the sexual assault were more complicated.
Mr. A took the victim to his apartment for a reading session and to get his garden tools. According to the court, he is a believer in the healing powers of certain natural remedies, including oregano oil for insect bites.
At the apartment, Mr. A saw his victim scratching at what appeared to be insect bites. He offered to apply the oil, and she partially undressed so that her arms and legs were unclothed. After applying the oil, he suggested she have a bath because he didn’t want her mother to know.
Mr. A was present during the bath while his victim was naked and afterwards provided her with a towel to wrap herself in.
The agreed statement of facts, entered as part of the guilty plea, stated that Mr. A was not motivated by any sexual purpose and that he did not touch any of his victim’s private areas or kiss her mouth or lips.
“Mr. A could have invited [the victim] to apply the oil to her body herself, but he did not,” the judge noted in her ruling. “Mr A could have run the bath, tested the water and provided a towel before she undressed and got in the bath, but he did not.
“There was no reason at all for Mr. A to be present while she was naked nor to test the water once she was already in the bath.”
According to the judge, the victim never consented to the bath and had further not consented to Mr. A’s presence in the bathroom while she was in the bath.
In another instance, a victim went to the apartment and Mr. A embraced her and kissed her cheek.
“These circumstances are indeed very suspicious. However, I am bound by the admitted facts of this case and those include that Mr. A was not motivated by any sexual purpose and did not touch any sexual parts of [his victim’s] body,” said the judge.
Mr. A was described as having an average intellectual function, and possible mild cognitive impairment from vascular illness or mini-strokes. He acknowledged to the court that his conduct was traumatic for her and he did not obtain consent
Since the incidents, Mr. A has left Princeton and is currently living in a senior facility in Penticton. As a result of his age and more limited involvement in community activities, a pre-sentencing report indicated that he has a low risk of re-offending.
The Crown asked for two years jail time followed by three years probation, citing aggravating circumstances.
Conditions of Mr. A’s non-custodial sentence include being prohibited from contact with children and being alone with a person under 16 years old.
The judge noted that he has no access to children, no intention of volunteering, no criminal history, no longer has a driver’s license and thus no danger to society.
In addition to the one-year conditional sentence, of being released into the community under supervision and one-year probation, Mr. A will also have to pay a $500 victim surcharge.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. See the sexual assault fact sheet provided by Victim Services and Crime Prevention. You can also call your local police or VictimLinkBC for information and support.
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