First time Indigenous young offender sentenced to 24 months’ probation for sexual assault of an inebriated 14-year-old. The Court considered the appropriate principles under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and determined that a sentence of 24 months’ probation is fitting in light of the circumstance of the offence and the offender.
C.Z., and Indigenous youth and first time offender, was convicted of sexual assault. He was 16 year’s old in 2018 when he assaulted an inebriated victim, who was then 14 years old. He ignored her pleas to stop and overcame her attempts to resist, forcing sex on her. The victim on the following day of the assault disclosed to her friends, mother, and the police, that the offence occurred in the early hours of the night following a house party.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act [“YCJA”] sets out a sentencing regime which differs from the regime established under the Criminal Code. The YCJA created a separate stream from young persons in recognition of their presumed diminished moral blameworthiness and heightened vulnerability in dealing with the justice system. A Gladue report, and a Psychosocial and Psychological Assessment report were produced to the court by Youth Forensic Psychiatric Services. Among significant Gladue factors, C.Z. had a childhood marred by family violence, poverty, residential instability, parental alcohol misuse, physical and sexual abuse, and transgenerational trauma.
Under s 42(14) of the YJCA, the maximum combined duration of sentences is two years, unless it is a serious offence for which an adult could receive life imprisonment, in which case the maximum custodial sentence is three years. Under s 2 of the YJCA, sexual assault meets the threshold of a “violent offence”, as it is defined as an offence that causes bodily harm. For young offenders, this is to be a highly individualized process which considers the offence, the circumstances of the offence, and the circumstances of the offender (R v PR, 2018 SKCA 27).
The court notes the aggravating factors at play. Despite admitting guilt, C.Z.’s psychiatric assessments demonstrated concern for his risk of recidivism, stating that as the offender continues to mature into adulthood that reassessment is imperative. Despite the offender’s harsh upbringing and admission of guilt, his offence unequivocally and gravely affected the victim’s life. A sentence of 24 months’ probation is appropriate.