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Recent Jail Sentences

In recent years, the Supreme Court of Canada has released a number of decisions related to criminal sexual assault  and sexual interference charges, the vast majority of which side with the prosecution. These decisions have made it harder and harder to defend those charged with sexual offences, particularly those involving children. Further, the sentencing handed down for these types of offences has begun to increase as well.

Jurisdictions across the country have begun to see an increase in the lengthy of prison sentences handed down to those convicted of sexual assault offences.  Courts have sited the better understanding we currently have of the trauma caused by sexual assault on its victims.

In Canadian criminal law, specifically in sentencing, there is something known as the principle of parity. The idea behind the principle is that individuals sentenced for similar crimes should be given similar sentences. In addition to the principle of parity, courts also consider other sentencing factors when determining the appropriate sentence for an offender. When sentencing an individual convicted of a sexual offence, the court will put primary consideration on the principles of denunciation, deterrence, and rehabilitation.

In the past, those sentenced for sexual offences received sentences, on average, that were much lower than those being handed down today. When determining the appropriate sentence for an offender, the court will consider the sentencing principles in addition to any aggravating or mitigating factors in the case. The court will weigh all the relevant factors and review other similar case law to arrive at the appropriate sentence.

Common Sexual Assault Defences used by Lawyers

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R. v. Nygard – 10+ Years (Litigation Ongoing)

This upwards trend in sentencing has been seen in numerous cases released by various courts throughout the country in recent years. Former Canadian fashion mogul, Peter Nygard, is currently facing a considerable amount of time in prison after being convicted of four counts of sexual assault by an Ontario court in late 2023. Nygard is accused of using his position of power to invite young women to his office where he was said to have drugged and sexually assaulted them. The court will weigh the aggravating factors in the case, the nature of the assault and number of victims (four) with the mitigating factors in the case, including his age and health issues. Lawyers for the accused have indicated that he may face up to a double-digit prison sentence for his crimes, which he is set to be sentenced for in the coming months.

R. v. McKnight – 11 Years

In March of 2023, the Alberta Court of Appeal heard the case of R. v. McKnight, which involved a club promoter convicted of sexually assault five different women. Convicted in 2020, McKnight was sentenced to a period of eight years in prison for his crimes. The Crown originally sought a period of 15 years custody and appealed the eight-year sentence to Alberta’s highest court. In its unanimous decision, the three member bench increased McKnight’s sentence to 11 years in prison, indicated that the eight year sentence did not send a collective statement to McKnight and to the public, that our society has a basic code of values that cannot be violated. The Court indicated that the starting point for a major sexual assault is three years in custody and that given the repeated nature of Mr. McKnight’s behaviour and the numerous victims involved, an eight year sentence was not sufficient.

R. v. Ateyah – 9 Years

In November of 2023, an Ontario doctor was sentenced to nine years in prison in the case of R. v. Ateyah. In that case, the offender was convicted of sexually assaulting numerous patients at his clinic between 2008 and 2017.

R. v. Mendoza – 7.5 Years

In the 2023 case of R. v. Mendoza, the offender was convicted of sexually assaulting his young daughter’s 14-year-old friend and filming it. The Court heard evidence that the pair had met to engage in sexual activity on more than one occasion. Defence counsel for Mendoza argued that his client’s conduct did not amount to a “major sexual assault” because the young victim had been agreeable to the sexual activity, and because their relationship was a unique one that had developed over time. In its sentencing decision, the court indicated that counsel misunderstood the definition of a major sexual assault, noting that the young victim had been groomed. The court further reiterated that an individual who is 14 years old is legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity with an adult. Mendoza was subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison.

R. v. Rappaport – 5 Years

In another recent case from late 2023, a hockey coach was sentenced to almost five years in prison in the case of R. v. Rappaport. The accused, a former hockey coach, was convicted of one count of sexual interference, one count of sexual exploitation, and one count of invitation to sexual touching after allegations of a historical sex assault were brought to light by a former player who Rappaport coached between 2009 and 2011. In addition to his almost five-year prison sentence, the offender was also ordered to register as a sex offender and to provide a sample of his DNA to be held in the National Repository.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.