A Maple Ridge man who sexually assaulted a young girl who babysat for his family will spend between three and five years in prison, but won’t be sentenced until next year.
A sentencing hearing for Russell John Hobson came to a halt Wednesday after his lawyer asked the judge to consider his aboriginal heritage.
Hobson’s father was Cree and Mi’kmaw.
The 46-year-old, however, has no “significant” connection to his heritage, his lawyer, Lionel Farmer, told the Port Coquitlam Provincial Court.
“There is something that’s not in the pre-sentence report, that is Mr. Hobson is First Nations,” said Farmer, adding he did not think a Gladue report was necessary.
“The only consideration, I ask, is for you take into account.”
But since Farmer pointed to his client’s First Nations background, provincial court judge Marion Buller Bennett was forced to stop the hearing and request a Gladue report, a right that aboriginal people have under section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code.
Farmer replied that Hobson has no significant connection with his heritage so a Gladue report would not add much in terms of options when it came to sentencing.
Judge Buller Bennett, however, explained she had no choice.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has made it really clear that for aboriginal offenders judges must have certain information, otherwise I don’t know what the considerations are for sentencing,” she replied.
A heavy-set man with closely cropped hair and dark circles under his eyes, Hobson has been in custody since he was arrested in May following an investigation by Ridge Meadows RCMP that lasted more than a year.
He was charged with sexual interference, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon, but entered a guilty plea on the first day of his trial in October to one count of sexual interference, or touching.
The other charges will most likely be stayed.
Hobson is accused of assaulting the babysitter over a period of four years.
Hobson’s sexual relationship began in 2001, when the girl was 14. He was 33 then. The relationship continued until she turned 18.
Hobson’s lawyer stressed his client “does not and cannot admit responsibility to any sexual contact predating the complainant being 14 years old.”
Crown prosecutor Richard Browning told the court the girl was a virgin before coming in contact with Hobson. Most of the assaults took place while Hobson’s common law wife was at work.
“The relationship involved numerous instances of sexual assault,” said Browning.
“Sexual intercourse took place whenever the opportunity arose.”
That included daily contact and their relationship continued even after Hobson moved out of the neighbourhood.
Crown noted several incidents of “significance” to support their sentencing stance.
Browning said Hobson tore a hole in the crotch area of the teen’s pyjamas “to provide access and to avoid surprise detection of his acts by others.”
The victim recalls Hobson having sex with her on her 14th birthday and that he expressed a desire to commemorate each birthday that way.
He also called her school, posing as her father allowing her to skip class.
Browning told the court that on one occasion when the teen was visiting her father in Vancouver, she snuck out and was picked up by Hobson, who took her to a warehouse, where they had sex.
Another time, at the age of 15, she was suffering from severe stomach pains and was asked to baby sit.
Browning said the girl laid down to get some rest, but when Hobson returned home he insisted they have sex.
Later that day, the teen was taken to hospital, where she remained for three days.
Hobson would also supply the teen and a friend with cigarettes and alcohol.
Browning noted Hobson also introduced the teen to cocaine. He also drove her wherever she wanted.
When the girl turned 18, she ended the relationship, but Hobson could not accept her decision.
Browning told the court Hobson then “engaged in behaviour” that ultimately resulted in the girl contacting Ridge Meadows RCMP to get Hobson to stop contacting her.
Hobson also threatened to reveal their relationship to her mother when she previously tried to break contact with him.
Browning noted that Hobson was in a “position of trust” when he began sleeping with the teen.
“This was an offence committed on a young person for years and the results, to say the least, have been significant,” he explained.
He noted the girl, now a young woman, speaks of a loss of childhood; difficulties with forming relationships, a lack of self-esteem and self-worth.
Hobson had no reaction to Browning’s description of the impact of his crimes on the teen.
Dressed in a red, long-sleeved prison shirt, he sat with his arms crossed. At times, he looked at a woman seated in the court gallery. At other times, he stared intently at Crown.
The teen has been in counselling since she lodged a complaint with police.
“It is an offence that has had a tremendous impact on this young life,” Browning said.
Browning asked the judge to impose a sentence in the range of three to five years, as well as a three year probation order.
Since the pre-sentence hearing was stopped so a Gladue report can be prepared, Hobson will not be sentenced until the New Year.
Hobson is already a registered sex offender because he was convicted of another sexual assault in this past April on Vancouver Island.
Crown has requested he be registered as a sex offender for life.
At the time of the offences took place (between 2001 and 2005), the maximum sentence for sexual interference was a period of imprisonment of five years
Since then parliament has changed the Canada’s Criminal Code, adding tougher penalties. The maximum term is now 10 years and a minimum sentence of 45 days.
The judge however has to impose a sentence that reflects the penalties outlined before the recent changes.
Other changes to the criminal code, which came into effect in 2009, affect the time offenders spend in custody, prior to sentencing. Before the changes, a court would often give double credit for the time served. Hobson has been in custody for the past seven months.
What is a Gladue report?
The Gladue report is a pre-sentencing or bail hearing report, usually prepared by caseworkers at the request of the judge, defense counsel or Crown Attorney. These reports contain recommendations to the court about what an appropriate sentence might be, and include information about the Aboriginal persons’ background such as: history regarding residential schools, child welfare removal, physical or sexual abuse, underlying developmental or health issues, such as FASD, anxiety, or substance use. Gladue applies to all self-identified Aboriginal People: status and not, regardless of whether they live in or outside of an Aboriginal community. Aboriginal people can waive their Gladue rights.
– The Gladue Primer. 2011 Legal Services Society, BC