A Red Deer judge reluctantly gave a man who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 15-year-old girl only a two-year prison sentence on Tuesday.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kirk Sisson said he would have imposed a tougher four-year sentence for the sexual touching of a minor, only he was bound by court precedence and a joint submission presented by the Crown and defence to impose the suggested two years.
Justin Barry Knutson of Red Deer never disputed having sex with a teenage girl on the September long weekend in 2011.
But his lawyer, Kevin Schollie, said it took a while for the now 34-year-old man, who has difficulty reading and doing math, to understand that having sexual intercourse with someone under age 16 can never be considered consensual under law.
When Knutson grasped this concept, he opted to plead guilty on what would have been the first day of his trial in Court of Queen’s Bench in Red Deer.
But Sisson felt his late plea suggested Knutson had difficultly accepting responsibility.
The judge also felt the mitigating effects of the guilty plea were “cancelled out” by aggravating factors — that Knutson had sexual intercourse with a child who had been drinking alcohol and was “fragile,” having previously experienced abusive circumstances.
Crown prosecutor Robin Snider read aloud a victim impact statement from the teenage girl.
Since her encounter with Knutson in a friend’s home in Blackfalds, the girl said she has attempted suicide, experienced anxiety attacks, withdrawn from friends, and fallen out with family members and is now living in a foster home.
“This has destroyed everything,” the victim, who is now 17, wrote in her statement.
Schollie noted the girl had suicidal thoughts even before the assault, but he accepted that Knutson’s actions compounded her emotional problems.
The Crown and defence, in their submission to Sisson, noted that Knutson had no previous criminal record. The father of five children who are living with two mothers also expressed remorse for his actions.
“I am sorry for putting you guys through what I put you through,” Knutson said to the tearful victim and her supporters in the courtroom.
As well as receiving a two-year jail sentence, Knutson was ordered to submit his DNA to a sex offender registry, to have no contact with the victim or with children under age 16 unless another adult is present (his own children are exempted from this condition).
He was also prohibited from owning firearms for 10 years.