A 93-year-old Quebec man who sexually abused his daughters a half-century ago will serve time in his seniors home instead of jail.
On Tuesday, a Quebec judge sentenced Phillipe Hamelin to a two years less a day following his conviction on charges of incest, sexual molestation and assault causing bodily harm against his two daughters when they were young girls.
Judge André Perreault told the court that sending the man, who is nearly blind and deaf and barely mobile, to jail would risk turning him into a martyr for other sex offenders.
In court, Hamelin could be heard whimpering as the judge criticized his behaviour and praised the courage of his daughters to come forward and tell their story.
"No sentence I impose will be enough to give you back what you've lost," Perreault told the sisters as they listened to his ruling.
The Crown was seeking a prison sentence of between seven and nine years, while Hamelin's lawyer had asked for two years less a day in the community, adding that any prison time would be like a death sentence.
Experts agreed locking up Hamelin would be pointless, given he has no previous record and given assurances from his lawyer he poses no risk to society or to reoffend.
"The goal of imprisonment is to punish," said Elizabeth White of the St. Leonard's Society of Canada, a charitable organization dedicated to community safety.
"But when a 93-year-old is in a wheelchair and possibly has other infirmities, I'm not at all convinced that prison will be a punishment for him, even if he knows where he is."
Hamelin suffers from a degenerative disorder similar to Alzheimer's disease and can't get to court without help.
He was convicted last year of five counts of incest, sexual molestation and assault causing bodily harm against his daughters between 1956 and 1963.
His daughters Marcelle and Michele, now in their 60s, were just children. The publication ban on their identities was lifted at the sisters' request last year.
Hamelin has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. Marcelle doesn't expect her father to spend time behind bars, and said she would rather he simply own up to his crimes and stay away from minors.
"I don't think it's up to the victims to determine a sentence, but the way they have been impacted by the events has a bearing on where the judge has to go," White said.
"But if he is manageable in the community, and if he is not a risk to other people, I don't know why we would be putting him in prison."
Due to widespread media attention, Hamelin has already been shunned by others in a seniors' residence where he lives in near isolation.
According to CSC figures, only 130 of the 13,581 federal inmates registered last April were aged 70 or older.