New Brunswick

Convicted sex offender pleads guilty to sexual assault in special care home

Andrew Michael Douglas pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a fellow resident in a special care home in Saint John.

Andrew Michael Douglas will appear in court for sentencing on Aug. 30

Joann's Special Care Home on Queen Street in Saint John was the scene of an sexual assault by a registered sex offender. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Andrew Michael Douglas, accused of sexually assaulting a fellow resident in a special care home in Saint John, was supposed to stand trial today.

But the 29-year-old entered a guilty plea last week.

"It was just a big relief, a huge relief that I would not have to be in the courthouse and see my son struggle and suffer, having to recount what happened," said the mother of the victim, who can't be identified because of a publication ban.

"He barely talks about it. It's been too much for him."

The woman's son has been hospitalized since July 2.

The mother said her son is afraid of returning to any special care home — he wants to be sure he won't be assaulted again.

"He's very calm. But as a layperson would say, 'He's emotionally fragile,'" she said. "He's plagued by nightmares. He has difficulty sleeping, he's still reliving everything."

A sentencing hearing is expected on Aug. 30.

"I had been hoping for this because my son's health has not been well the past few weeks," she said.

Apart from the incident, the special care home has been a happy residence for her son since he first moved in in November 2015.

"He wants to go to a new home but he doesn't want to go until he has assurances," she said.

Living in a nightmare

Douglas has been on the national sex offender registry since 2011 and was serving a conditional sentence for sexually assaulting a woman in 2016, when the Department of Social Development placed him in the home. 

At the time of the alleged offence in the special care home, Douglas was serving an 18-month conditional sentence for sexually assaulting a woman in a Saint John parking lot in February 2016.

A Saint John mother wants to know how a convicted sexual offender serving a conditional sentence was placed in a special care home with vulnerable adults. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Five weeks into that sentence, Douglas was charged with common assault against a woman. 

He pleaded guilty to that charge on Nov. 3, 2016, and as a result, the judge ordered Douglas to serve 60 days in jail.  

He was then expected to resume the conditional sentence in the community.

The mother of the complainant believes it was around mid-January, when Douglas was out of custody again, that he was placed in the Queen Street home.

Getting answers

Special care homes in New Brunswick accommodate people who need special assistance or supervision because of physical or intellectual disabilities.  

The complainant and the accused both lived at Joann's Special Care home on Queen Street in Saint John, which is licensed for nine residents.

The mother has been pressing the minister of social development to provide some answers as to how a registered offender got placed into a special care home.

"The government has repeatedly told me they cannot respond because the matter is under investigation," she said.

The Department of Social Development declined to answer questions from CBC News about how a man who'd been a registered sex offender since 2011 could be placed in a special care home with vulnerable people.

The mother was hoping to hear some of those answers from departmental staff as part of the evidence given in a two-day trial.

The mother said Douglas has remained in custody since the last hearing.

"He is still in jail for breach of his conditional discharge, which was supposed to end in the beginning of November 2017."

With files from Rachel Cave