Quebec Court of Appeal overturns conditional discharge for man guilty of sexual assault

Simon Houle, who pleaded guilty last July to charges of sexual assault and voyeurism, was given a conditional discharge and three months probation during his trial, after a Quebec court judge ruled a criminal record would have had disproportionate consequences on his career as an engineer.  (Simon Houle/Facebook - image credit)
Simon Houle, who pleaded guilty last July to charges of sexual assault and voyeurism, was given a conditional discharge and three months probation during his trial, after a Quebec court judge ruled a criminal record would have had disproportionate consequences on his career as an engineer. (Simon Houle/Facebook - image credit)

A Quebec man who received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to sexual assault and voyeurism will spend one year behind bars after the Court of Appeal overturned the judgment.

In April 2019, Simon Houle, then a 27-year-old mechanical engineering student at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, sexually assaulted a sleeping woman during a party in an apartment and took multiple photos of her private parts.

He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2021.

The Crown sought an 18-month sentence for him. However, in a decision rendered last June, Quebec court Judge Matthieu Poliquin handed Houle a conditional discharge with three months' probation.

In his decision, Poliquin said that a criminal record would "have a significant impact" on Houle's career. That led many advocates for sexual assault survivors to say that the sentence minimized the gravity of sexual assault and could contribute to making victims hesitant to come forward with their own complaints.

The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) appealed the judgment last December, saying that Houle's sentence underestimated the aggravating circumstances of his crimes.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the DPCP.

The court sentenced Houle to 12 months in jail for one count of sexual assault and two months for one count of voyeurism. The sentences will be serve concurrently, meaning Houle will spend one year total in jail.

In its decision, the court said a conditional discharge in this case undermines public confidence in the administration of justice.

"The type of sexual act committed by Houle is not trivial and increases the risk of harm to the victim," the decision reads.