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Manager at motorhome dealership sentenced to six months’ prison for workplace sexual assault against two women

by HR Law Canada

A former 46-year-old employee at a motorhome dealership in Ontario has been sentenced to six months in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting two female colleagues in the workplace.

The worker, MH, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of sexual assault against AA and one count against CC following a series of incidents.

The Crown sought a 12 to 15-month imprisonment sentence along with several ancillary orders, while the defense proposed a more lenient sentence of 60 to 90 days, arguing for its intermittence and a subsequent three-year probation.

After deliberation, the Court sentenced MH to a total of six months in prison, to be served consecutively for the separate counts of assault. This decision took into account the gravity of the offenses and their impact on the victims, as well as MH’s efforts towards rehabilitation.

The incidents detailed in the case involved MH engaging in non-consensual sexual contact with his colleagues, including touching and grabbing in private areas, both over and under clothing. The Court emphasized the seriousness of these workplace assaults, noting their repetitive nature and the escalation in severity over time.

Incidents involving AA

The incidents involving AA took place in 2017 and 2019. In the first count, during the fall of 2017, MH admitted to touching AA’s leg for a sexual purpose in his office, but denied other allegations she made about the incident. The jury concluded that this touching was intentional, non-consensual, and sexually motivated.

The second count involved two separate incidents in November 2019 inside a recreational vehicle (RV), where AA was decorating for a Christmas parade. AA testified that MH grabbed her buttocks and breasts without consent. MH admitted to one incident of touching her breast but denied other actions. The jury was instructed that they only needed to agree on one instance of sexual assault for a guilty verdict on this count.

In evaluating the evidence, the Court found AA’s testimony credible and rejected MH’s account where it conflicted with hers. AA was considered an honest and reliable witness, despite minor inconsistencies in her testimony. The Court emphasized AA’s clarity and precision in recalling the events, as well as her forthrightness during cross-examination.

Incidents involving CC

The third count of sexual assault involved CC and incidents that occurred between June 2019 and August 2020.

During the trial, MH admitted to the sexual conduct but claimed that CC had consented. The incidents included him placing his hand under CC’s shirt to touch her breast and grinding against her while both were fully clothed. MH argued that he believed CC had communicated her consent, based on their interactions and her reactions.

However, CC testified that all instances of sexual contact initiated by MH were unwelcome and non-consensual. She denied any conversation or behavior that could have been construed as consent. The jury was instructed that it was the Crown’s responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that CC did not consent to the sexual touching and that MH did not have an honest belief in such consent.

The Court accepted CC’s account as credible and reliable, rejecting his claim of honest but mistaken belief in consent. It was noted that MH sought confirmation from CC about the consensual nature of their interactions only after AA had complained, suggesting he did not truly believe in the consent at the time of the incidents.

Based on CC’s testimony, MH was found guilty of sexually assaulting her on at least one occasion, involving non-consensual sexual touching of her breast and multiple instances of grinding against her without consent.

Psychological trauma

AA and CC reported significant psychological trauma as a result of the assaults, which occurred in vulnerable situations. AA, in her Victim Impact Statement, detailed the profound changes in her personality and the adverse impact on her family life and career.

The Court also considered MH’s personal background, including his family situation, employment history, and community involvement. While he showed remorse and undertook therapy for his actions, the Court emphasized the need for a sentence that reflected both denunciation and deterrence.

“(MH) assaulted more than one woman,” the Court said. “This suggests an inability to control his sexual impulses and a pattern of predatory behaviour that increases the gravity of the offences.”

It also noted that both victims were assaulted more than once and that repetition of incidents over time was an aggravating factor.

“(MH) did not engage in a single isolated incident that might suggest a mere lapse in judgment,” it said.

It also noted that the assaults occurred in the workplace, “where the victims were required to attend to earn their livelihood.”

“Workplace incidents are more serious because they not only harm the individual victims, but they also poison the work environment,” it said.

It also noted that MH occupied a managerial position within the workplace and he was specifically entrusted to update and implement the company’s sexual harassment policy. He didn’t have direct authority over his victims, the Court noted, but he did occupy a high level position and was a close friend of the general manager, who was the owner’s son.

“The victims therefore naturally doubted whether reporting his misconduct to management would result in any formal recourse, and CC worried about possible retaliatory conduct if she made a complaint,” the Court said.

It called imprisonment of six months “consistent with the principles of totality and restraint” and “not unduly long or oppressive.”

Additional penalties

In addition to imprisonment, MH faces a life-long weapons prohibition and an order preventing communication with the victims during his custodial period. It authorized the taking of bodily substances from MH for forensic DNA analysis.

A separate hearing is scheduled to determine his compliance with the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

For more information, see R. v. Hurst, 2023 ONSC 6448 (CanLII)

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