Crown seeks 8 years for man convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting his niece 20 years ago
WARNING: This article contains details of suicide and sexual abuse.
A man from Kamloops, B.C., convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting his niece while she was living with his family is awaiting sentencing.
In May 2022, a jury found Nihal Maligaspe guilty on two of three counts of sexual assault dating back 20 years to when Dinushini Maligaspe was studying to be a nurse at Thompson Rivers University.
A previous publication ban on her name has been lifted at her request.
During a two-day sentence hearing in Kamloops Supreme Court, Justice Miriam Gropper heard the victim deliver a 10-page impact statement detailing how her "whole world came crashing down" the first time someone she considered a father figure assaulted her when she was in her early 20s.
"My entire body was in shock. I could not move," she said. "I could not get the weight he dumped on me off for the next 20 years of my life."
Dinushini Maligaspe fought back tears, and her voice shook as she repeatedly described her uncle as someone who made her feel like a prisoner in her own body.
"Now, I'm taking back what's rightfully mine," she said.
"I never expected the offender, someone I trusted wholeheartedly, to violate me the way he did."
Dinushini Maligaspe did not mention Nihal Maligaspe by name as she explained the trauma she has suffered over the past two decades, including one suicide attempt in 2006.
"After he started raping me, I went from being on the Dean's List to failing my university courses. I was often depressed and thought of suicide many times. I attempted it once while in Kamloops because I could not go on another day."
'I could no longer ignore what he had done to me'
Dinushini Maligaspe now works as an intensive care nurse and has a support dog named Daisy to help her after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and depression.
"In December 2018, I had a mental health crisis in which I could no longer ignore what he had done to me," she said. "Finally, today, I can freely speak out loud about my experience as much as I want."
During the trial, Nihal Maligaspe insisted he engaged in a consensual sexual "affair" with his brother's daughter in the fall of 2003.
The now-72-year-old stood with his back to Dinushini on April 26 as he read from a note, stating, "I did not see or realize how much my actions were affecting her life."
He also apologized, saying, "I never intended to cause her any pain and will ensure nothing like this ever happens again."
Gropper will spend the next few weeks reviewing submissions.
Crown counsel seeks 8 years in prison
Crown counsel Katie Bouchard is seeking a sentence of eight years in federal prison.
While acknowledging the range for this type of offence is two to six years, Bouchard says the former Thompson Rivers University lecturer was in a position of power over his niece, who feared being sent back to Sri Lanka, where she had a troubled childhood.
Defence lawyer Jay Michi is asking for two years less a day in a provincial jail, followed by three years of probation.
He says mitigating factors include his client not having a criminal record before his conviction and he's deemed a low risk to reoffend.
Michi also shared Maligaspe's marriage has ended in divorce, his relationship with his three children is "fractured" and he's suffered "intense media scrutiny."
A date for sentencing will be set on May 1 at 2 p.m. PT.
Gropper has indicated she's available to deliver her decision by the end of May.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.