A defence lawyer argued Friday that a 31-year-old man who targeted and sexually touched a 13-year-old girl on repeated occasions should be spared a jail sentence.
Nelson Thomas pleaded guilty to a sexual assault that wasn’t reported until three years after it was committed, in August and September 2007. A sentencing hearing was held Friday in B.C. Supreme Court.
Crown lawyer Chris Balison said the girl reported the incidents in 2010 after being encouraged by a boyfriend to go to police.
When RCMP interviewed Thomas he admitted touching the girl, including having intercourse on a final occasion, saying she was “so convincing.”
The girl’s name is protected under a provision of the Criminal Code.
While the Crown is seeking a jail sentence between 18 and 24 months, defence lawyer Don Campbell argued Thomas shouldn’t go to jail.
Instead, he could serve the maximum two-year conditional sentence in the community, with the entire time as house arrest, followed by probation.
“We have a (now) 37-year-old man with no criminal history,” Campbell said, arguing Thomas suffers from diabetes and celiac disease and requires a diet not practical in prison.
Campbell also said counselling is better in the community, where Thomas will be under life’s normal stresses of finances, relationships and work. He is trained as a forestry technician. He does not drink or take illicit drugs.
Balison said the girl met Thomas and his wife at the Kamloopa Pow Wow. Their families were already friends and they became closer.
Eventually Thomas and his wife moved in with the family.
“She said Mr. Thomas was extremely friendly to her, always trying to talk with her and get to know her and become better friends,” Balison said.
Eventually Thomas went into the girl’s bedroom and touched her sexually, something the girl said she didn’t want. This happened nightly for a month, culminating in intercourse.
“At this time she said ‘no’ and tried to turn away.”
Thomas and his wife moved out the next day and the assaults went unreported for three years.
If the crimes were to happen today, a jail sentence is automatic. Because the crime happened before amendments brought in by the Harper government, however, a conditional sentence is available.
Balison argued for jail, calling Thomas “a grown man taking advantage of a vulnerable girl. . . . I don’t want to call it grooming but he’s injecting himself in a position where he can take advantage of this young girl.”
Justice Sheri Donegan reserved her decision to a later date.
“This is not an easy case,” she told Thomas.