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Rancher sentenced for sex crimes against girls

A Central Alberta cattle rancher was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 months in jail and two years probation for repeatedly molesting seven girls, of whom six were his nieces.

The 57-year-old man’s name is withheld to protect the identities of his victims, who are all Hutterite girls ranging in age from nine to 17 at the time of the assaults.

The man, who is not married, had pleaded guilty on Sept. 13 to seven counts of sexual interference, with sentencing adjourned to allow the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

In Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Robin Snider asked for a two-year sentence, remarking that, while each incident was minor in nature, the fact that he had repeatedly touched so many girls was an aggravating factor.

There were threats of violence in some instances and one girl was slapped when she tried to pull away from him, said Snider.

Defence counsel Kevin Sproule asked Judge Bert Skinner to consider the unique circumstances of Hutterites and their communities in creating a sentence for his client, including the support shown for him by family and colony members ­­— two men and two women ­— who attended court with him.

Skinner stated that he had seen no evidence showing any cultural bias that separates Hutterites from other members of society, nor had he seen evidence of internal sanctions against people who commit offences within the colony.

“You knew what you were doing was wrong,” said Skinner.

He went on to say that he hopes the sentence pronounced for Sproule’s clients will send a clear message to other victims in similar circumstances.

“There has to be a message given to the other young girls on the colonies, that they have the right and should step forward.”

In addition to the jail term and probation, the man was ordered to surrender a sample of his DNA for the national data bank and will also be placed on the Sexual Offender Information Registry for 20 years.

Once he is released from prison, the man is prohibited from working in a position where he would have authority over children and from attending areas where children gather, such as parks and playgrounds.

He is also prohibited from having any device which would allow him access to pornography.

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