Five-year sentence for 'nightmare' sexual assault

A man from western P.E.I. has been sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman a year ago.

'She’ll never be the same as she was before'

The trial was held at the courthouse in Summerside. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A man from western P.E.I. has been sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman a year ago.

Matthew Leo Dunbar, 34, was found guilty earlier this month after a trial in Summerside. Dunbar was a friend of the victim's partner.

The victim testified during trial that Dunbar lured her into a darkened laundry room, pinned her against a freezer, and violently raped her in her own home while she tried to escape and pleaded with him to stop. At the time, the two were the only adults in the house. There were also two children sleeping in the home.

Dunbar left after the assault and the victim called for help.

Dangerous to the public, says Crown

Dunbar has a lengthy criminal record, including one other sexual assault conviction, two for assaulting a police officer and three for common assault.

Crown attorney Christopher White said Friday Dunbar has "a demonstrated history of violence" and poses an unacceptable level of danger to the public. He called his most recent sexual assault a serious violation of the victim's personal integrity.

The Crown also noted Dunbar had not pleaded guilty or accepted responsibility for his actions. He recommended a six-year sentence.

White said the victim continues to live with the effects of the sexual assault every day. She sat with her family in court with her head down through much of Friday's sentencing hearing.

Dunbar's lawyer Morgan Watts recommended a sentence of three to four years. He told the court that at 34, his client is "still relatively youthful" and "has struggled with drugs and alcohol from a very young age" noting that both were involved the night of the assault.

Lack of control

Supreme Court Justice Terri MacPherson disagreed.

"Mr. Dunbar is a grown 34-year-old man. He has been involved in the justice system as an adult since 2004 — 15 years," she said. "The person responsible for where Mr. Dunbar is today is Mr. Dunbar."

In handing down sentence Friday in Summerside, MacPherson said Dunbar was dangerous, with "no ability to control his own instincts and desires."

"The victim in this case went through what many would describe as a nightmare," said the judge.

"It is undeniable she'll never be the same as she was before. She demonstrated an incredible amount of courage and strength in the way she's battled back."

Before he was sentenced, Dunbar stood up and apologized for his actions. The judge noted that as one of the few mitigating factors. 

"I heard him express an apology to the victim this morning. I receive that with the belief that it's sincere," she said.

In addition to the five year sentence for assault, Dunbar was also sentenced to six months for driving while disqualified.

With credit for the time he's already spent in custody, Dunbar was sent to prison for four additional years. After he gets out of prison, he won't be allowed to drive for three years.

His name will be on the national sex offender registry for life.

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Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.