2 years in jail, life on sex offender list for assault at Hillsborough Hospital

·3 min read
Both the perpetrator and the victim were patients at Hillsborough Hospital in Charlottetown at the time of the November 2020 sexual assault.  (Randy McAndrew/CBC - image credit)
Both the perpetrator and the victim were patients at Hillsborough Hospital in Charlottetown at the time of the November 2020 sexual assault. (Randy McAndrew/CBC - image credit)

A 28-year-old Charlottetown man has been sentenced to two years less a day in provincial jail for sexually assaulting a woman at Hillsborough Hospital.

Both the man and his victim were patients of the psychiatric facility at the time of the incident in November 2020.

"Treatment for mental health issues is key, or I fear we will see him in court on charges like this again," Crown prosecutor John Diamond said as he presented the joint sentencing recommendation in Charlottetown provincial court on Tuesday.

There's a publication ban on the woman's identity. CBC News is not naming the man because he was a psychiatric patient at the time of the offence.

The man has had a previous encounter with the law. In 2012 he was charged with sexual assault, but was found criminally not responsible for mental health reasons.

After the 2020 assault on a woman who had just been admitted to Hillsborough Hospital, the man was found fit to stand trial. A judge found him guilty after a five-day trial in which the victim was among those testifying.

Staff at the hospital testified she was incapable of giving consent.

This incident has significantly impacted her and has caused her struggles. — Crown prosecutor John Diamond

The woman is currently in hospital and did not attend court on Tuesday.

"This incident has significantly impacted her and has caused her struggles," said Diamond.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

Defence lawyer Trish Cheverie told court the case was delayed in part because of the man's continuing mental health problems. He is being treated for schizophrenia and has been re-admitted to hospital several times since the criminal charge was laid.

The man wrote a letter of apology to his victim as part of the sentencing process, and Cheverie read it aloud in court.

"Unmistaken regret about how I treated you at HIllsborough Hospital … I believe I have overstepped my boundaries at Hillsborough Hospital and I hope you are well," said Cheverie, reading from the letter.

Mother and father in court

Cheverie cited a psychiatric report in describing her client as "extremely intelligent," though he has "little insight into his mental illness."

The man's mother and father were present in court as the sentence was handed down.

"Having come from a pro-social family, both parents are here today to show their support for him," his lawyer said.

In addition to two years less a day in provincial jail, Judge Jeff Lantz sentenced the man to three years probation after he gets out of jail.

After the 2012 incident, the man's name was placed on the national sex offender registry. That order made under the Sexual Offender Information Registry Act has since expired.

This is a difficult case. We have two individuals with serious mental health issues. That doesn't absolve the accused. — Judge Jeff Lantz

On Tuesday, Lantz issued an order that the man's name must now remain on the registry for life.

The man is also ordered to undergo assessment and treatment for sexual deviancy.

"We are dealing with a serious offence. This is a difficult case. We have two individuals with serious mental health issues. That doesn't absolve the accused," said Lantz.

"He has a reluctance to deal with his illness," the judge added. "We do see people who do well, when on their prescribed medication."

Protocols followed, says province

Later on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the province sent CBC News a statement about changes made at Hillsborough Hospital after the November 2020 assault.

"Since that time, Violence Risk Assessments are now done upon admission, as well as on every shift and every time there is an incident," the statement said. "Individuals deemed higher risk receive constant care and observation by nursing staff and they may be transferred to a safe and secure area."

As well, the statement said, "cameras are used to monitor hallways and areas throughout the building," and staff do rounds at 15-minute or 30-minute intervals to observe patients "assessed at a lower risk."

The statement stressed that a review done after the assault showed the protocols in place at the time were followed.

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