Top court cuts compensation to inmate sexually abused by prison officer

The Supreme Court of Canada has slashed almost in half the amount of money a lower court awarded to a B.C. man sexually abused in prison.

The Supreme Court of Canada has slashed almost in half the amount of money a lower court awarded to a B.C. man sexually abused by a prison officer.

Dean Zastowny claimed he continued to lead a life of crime after being released from prison in 1989 in part because he suffered psychological damage from being forced to have oral sex with corrections officer Roderick MacDougall.

The assaults happened when Zastowny was 18 and a new inmate in the former Oakalla provincial prison located in suburban Burnaby, B.C.

He had been awarded $275,000 in an earlier ruling but in a unanimous 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court slashed that lower court's figure to $140,000.

A trial judge originally awarded Zastowny $150,000 for wages lost while in prison and $50,000 for future wage losses. The Supreme Court cut the former award to $30,000 and the latter to $35,000.

But the judges kept in place a $60,000 award for general damages and $15,000 for future counselling.

Zastowny spent 12 of the 15 years following the assault in jail for other crimes.

In the high court's ruling, the judges wrote that Zastowny was entitled to lost wages only for the time when he was free.

The ruling stated that lost wages are a consequence of imprisonment.

"An award of damages for wages lost while incarcerated would constitute a rebate of the natural consequence of the penalty provided by law," Justice Marshall Rothstein wrote.

Awarding damage for wages lost while in jail "would introduce an inconsistency in the fabric of law."

The judges also cut the amount awarded for future wage losses, agreeing with the British Columbia Court of Appeal that Zastowny remains at high risk of reoffending and ending up back behind bars.

The British Columbia government has paid a number of settlements in connection with MacDougall, who was convicted of nine counts of indecent assault or sexual assault.

MacDougall, who worked for the B.C. Corrections Service from 1976 until he resigned while under investigation in 1997, served three years and seven months behind bars.

With files from the Canadian Press