A blind man who was put under house arrest for sexually assaulting a woman must spend time in jail, the Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled.
A provincial court judge gave former paralympian Keith Myette — who is totally blind and relies on a seeing-eye dog — a suspended sentence of 18 months earlier this year.
Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux said in her sentencing decision that Alberta's correctional institutions cannot accommodate his disability, and that a jail term would be a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
But in a split decision, a three-judge panel at Alberta’s highest court overturned Myette’s sentence, ruling he must spend 90 days in jail on weekends, attend counseling and be on probation for a year.
Court of Appeal Justice Constance Hunt and Justice Jack Watson wrote that the trial court judge neglected to consider the gravity of the sexual assault Myette committed, which involved digital penetration while his victim was asleep.
The Court of Appeal judges also said the lower court judge “made errors in reaching the conclusion that the correctional system could not accommodate the respondent’s needs arising from his disability.”
Court of Appeal Justice Peter Martin wrote a dissenting opinion in which he agreed with Judge Lamoureux’s conclusion that imprisoning Myette would be unduly harsh.
“He would be completely defenseless and at the mercy of other prisoners and his keepers to help him perform even the most basic of daily functions,” Martin wrote.
“That is particularly so as the respondent would not have the assistance of his guide dog on whom he has come to depend for the past 10 years.”