Warning: This story contains disturbing details.
More than a dozen people applauded from a courtroom gallery Monday morning, as a man convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl more than three years ago was put in handcuffs and sent to prison.
Court of King's Bench Justice Graeme Mitchell sentenced Christopher Duke, 51, who was convicted in July 2022, to five years in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl in a Regina home in July 2019.
"The sentence I impose must protect the public," Mitchell said while delivering his decision.
"It must clearly denounce Mr. Duke's conduct and deter him and others from committing sexual offences against children."
Mitchell also had to practice restraint, he said, to ensure the sentence was proportionate to what occurred and the offender's circumstances.
In addition to prison time, Duke must provide DNA samples to create a file for him in the national DNA database, abide by the federal Sex Offender Information Registration Act for 20 years, and have no contact with the survivor unless through a lawyer.
He is barred from having a prohibited or restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device or prohibited ammunition for the rest of his life. He is also prohibited from having any other firearm, crossbow, restricted weapon, ammunition or explosive substances for 10 years.
Per the Criminal Code, Duke's sentence could have ranged from one to 14 years.
Crown prosecutor Leona Andrews had sought a six-year sentence. Defence attorney Chris MacLeod argued for three to four years.
"The decision was very well-reasoned, very thorough. I'm happy with the decision," Andrews told reporters Monday.
MacLeod did not speak to reporters after court Monday.
A woman speaking on behalf of the survivor's family, who CBC News is not identifying due to a publication ban, said five years wasn't enough, "but I don't think any time would have been enough."
The sentence gives the family closure in that people know what happened, she said, but there is some discomfort knowing Duke could be out of prison on an appeal.
"If there are other [survivors] out there, please come forward," she said. "For any parent whose child has told them there's something that's happened, please believe your child."
Mitchell said several aggravating factors influenced the sentence: the survivor was underage, Duke held a position of trust with the survivor and abused that position, and the survivor has suffered severe psychological trauma.
"The family home is a place where a young girl should feel most safe and secure," Mitchell said. "She now fears being alone with older men. It has destabilized her life and the lives of her family members.
"This will likely continue long into the future and may never be fully overcome."
There is no hierarchy with regard to sexual offences in such cases, the judge said, citing a previous Supreme Court of Canada ruling. But he found some of the details of the assault to be "profoundly demeaning conduct."
There were few mitigating circumstances to consider, Mitchell said.
Duke maintained employment throughout the months-long legal proceedings, and his employer told MacLeod that he would re-employ Duke after his release, Mitchell said.
The judge also found Duke would be unlikely to re-offend. MacLeod had also informed the judge that Duke would participate in programming while incarcerated.
Duke maintained his innocence throughout the trial, even when evidence suggested the contrary, Mitchell noted. But this was not factored into the sentencing decision.
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.