A jury found an Ontario man, unnamed due to a publication ban, guilty of sexually assaulting the preteen daughter of his landlords for almost a year.
Convicted of five counts of sexual assault, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
A twist in the story, however, helped him win an appeal of that sentence, the Toronto Star reports.
Before sexual assault allegations were made against the man, in his 40s, he was riding in a car with the victim's mother. A horrible accident left him a quadriplegic.
The victim testified through video statements that she had told her mother of one incidence of the repeated assaults — over the course of a year, groping escalated to oral and anal sex —prior to the accident, but wasn't taken seriously and refrained from telling her mother of any further incidents.
It wasn't until the man sued the girl's family for $6 million in damages following the accident that the sexual assault allegations surfaced.
Paul Calarco, the man's defence lawyer, argued that the prison sentence for the paralyzed man, who now requires constant care and regular therapy, was "harsh and excessive."
"Whenever you're looking to a sentence which is really out of the ordinary, there's an onus on the defence counsel to say and to demonstrate to the court why, indeed, there are special circumstances," Calarco said. "Certainly the physical disability of a person has to be a major factor in sentencing."
Justices at the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed that the sentence was "demonstrably unfit," the Toronto Star reports. The man will instead be under house arrest for two years less a day.
While the car accident is certainly tragic, should it negate the brutal crimes he committed? What message does lenient sentencing give his young victim?
He's not the only Canadian to be sentenced to house arrest for sexual assault, either. Last month, an 81-year-old priest was sentenced to nine months of house arrest following a conviction for a 1974 crime.
"Father O'Keefe robbed me of my boyhood, of my manhood, of my future," the victim, now in his 50s, told the court. "No one has the right to do this to any human being."
In March, 2011, Kevin Gerard Pettipas, 52, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, was sentenced to house arrest and 10 months' probation, angering his two victims. He is allowed to work out of the home from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
"If I would've known then what I know now I don't think I would have done it the same. I think I would have just kept it a secret," said one of his victims, who cannot be named.
Thanks to the Conservatives' Bill C-9, "house arrest is no longer available in sexual assault convictions...limiting conditional sentences for serious crimes. The sentence was available at the time of his client's allegations, Calarco explained, making it an option in this case," the Toronto Star reports.
As for leniency for being quadriplegic, not all judges find paralyses a good enough reason to stay home from prison.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, a quadriplegic was sentenced to two to five years in prison for trying to sell methamphetamine. The judge claimed his condition didn't merit different treatment from the able-bodied man convicted alongside him.
And in California, a convicted kidnapper and rapist serving a 157-year sentence was paralysed in a prison knife fight. Despite costing taxpayers about $625,000 a year in care, Steven Martinez was denied parole on compassionate grounds as he "would post an unreasonable threat to public safety," the parole board commissioner claimed, citing threats that he would hire others to carry out threats against the nurses and guards who treat him behind bars.
In the case of the Toronto-area quadriplegic, was justice served? How should Canadian courts address criminals' medical needs in sentencing for serious crimes?