Man sentenced for Yellowknife sexual assault caught on camera
RCMP say jailing victims sometimes the only way to ensure their safety
A 25-year-old man from Kugluktuk has been sentenced to two years in jail for sexually assaulting a highly intoxicated woman behind a movie theatre in Yellowknife in May 2017.
Dressed in a green sweatshirt and grey sweat pants, Wade Kapakatoak sat beside his lawyer staring at the defence table as the judge delivered his sentence. Kapakatoak had earlier pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 57-year-old woman.
Judge Garth Malakoe said he would have given Kapakatoak a stiffer sentence if the prosecutor and defence had not recommended the two-year sentence.
"This type of offence is pervasive in the Northwest Territories," said Malakoe in handing down his sentence. "It's a crime committed against women of all ages by men of all ages."
According to his lawyer, Tom Boyd, Kapakatoak has no memory of the sexual assault. Both he and the victim were highly intoxicated. The victim was unconscious during part of the attack, much of which was caught by a security camera outside of the Capitol Theatre.
Judge balks at proposed sentence
Boyd said his client was "disgusted with himself, shocked and very embarrassed" when he saw the video.
Prosecutor Blair MacPherson said though the court could not conclude from the footage that Kapakatoak raped the victim, the attack was "a very serious sexual assault."
"No woman should ever have to experience such callous, degrading behaviour," he said.
MacPherson added Kapakatoak saw [the victim] as an object to be used for his own sexual gratification.
But when MacPherson announced he was seeking a sentence of two years less a day, Judge Malakoe balked, saying it was a "generous" sentence given the details of the assault.
Malakoe said the probation officer who wrote a background report on Kapakatoak for the sentencing had noted the prosecutor was seeking a sentence of three years.
MacPherson said the plea bargain was partly based on the difficulty the Crown would have had proving its case despite the video, since the victim has gone missing.
MacPherson said the video did not capture the entire attack.
He said the prosecutor's office and police have been trying to find the woman but have been unable to do so. They believe she is somewhere in Edmonton.
RCMP: options are limited when it comes to intoxicated victims
During the sentencing, Kapakatoak's lawyer referred to media coverage of the judge's criticism of the police response and said, "Whatever message is needed by police, it shouldn't result in a lengthier sentence."
The RCMP responded on the night of the attack and ended up jailing the victim.
In an earlier decision in the case, Malakoe criticized the RCMP for that response, and said the force needs to explain what happened.
In an email response, the RCMP said it has reviewed the case and concluded no disciplinary action is necessary.
The RCMP said it would not be commenting on the specifics of this case out of respect for the victim.
In the email, the RCMP said it has a duty to provide a safe space for people involved in criminal activity, including victims. But it said options are limited when those involved are intoxicated.
"We recognize that victims do not belong in jail, however we must also ensure their safety, and sometimes cells is the only option," stated Insp. Alex Laporte, the officer in charge of the Yellowknife detachment.
The RCMP said when a person is unable or unwilling to consent to be taken to hospital for examination and if the victim does not have any visible injuries or does not complain of injuries, they cannot be forced to get medical treatment.
It was the second time in three years an N.W.T. judge had criticized the RCMP for jailing victims of sexual assault. Two years ago, a judge criticized the RCMP for jailing a 13 year-old girl after she was attacked.
As in this case, that treatment may have interfered with the prosecution of the attacker. The victim showed up for the trial, but left during a break and did not return to complete her cross-examination.
With the standard 1.5 times credit for the 221 days he's already spent in jail, Kapakatoak has about 13 months left on his sentence. After he is released he will be on probation for a year.