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No jail for man who slapped child’s butt in Keremeos

The Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to assault in 2023
Penticton’s Law Courts. (Brennan Phillips - Penticton Western News)

Whether a man had sexual intentions when he slapped an eight-year-old on the butt in a Keremeos store in 2021 became the subject of lengthy debate during his sentencing.

David Richardson, age 70, appeared in Penticton Provincial Court via phone from Sidney, B.C. on April 11 to be sentenced after he pleaded guilty in 2023 to a lesser included offence of assault.

Originally Richardson was facing charges of sexual interference of a minor and sexual assault.

On the day of the incident in 2021, the victim stepped away from their parent to look at a display in the store. Richardson, who had been shopping there at the time, slapped his victim on the butt. The incident was captured on the store’s security cameras.

The plea arrangement with Crown counsel explicitly called for it not to be treated as a sexual case, the defence stated multiple times, pointing out issues with how the presentence report was written and its conclusions.

The discussion and arguments between Crown and defence on the impetus behind Richardson’s actions as well as the possible risk of reoffending took up significant time, with the entire sentencing taking up almost the entire day in court.

The presentence and psychological report, as well as the Crown, both pointed to Richardson’s past criminal history, which included two convictions for sexual offences involving minors. One was a sexual assault, and the other an indecent exposure. The most recent occurred almost 30 years ago, in 1995.

Those two previous convictions were noted by Judge Lynette Jung to be aggravating factors when she considered the appropriate sentence for Richardson.

Defence noted that prior to the 2021 incident, Richardson had not reoffended and was a skilled, full-time employed member of society with a son of his own. Defence also noted that Richardson’s older and more recent offences had occurred when he had been drinking.

“There’s been some awful behaviour in the past and reprehensible behaviour in this instance, but it is very significant in my submission that that is not occurring when he’s sober,” Richardson’s defence said. “So if we control the alcohol in my submission, we control the risk.”

Richardson had been traveling to the Interior in order to pick up the ashes of his recently deceased mother, defence said, which further influenced his emotions that day.

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The judge acknowledged that alcohol use was an issue and that the gap in offending was a mitigating factor, but also noted the fact that Richardson struck a child on the butt and the need to deter him and others from similar actions.

“I find on the basis of Mr Richardson’s criminal record, the presentence report and psychological assessment that Mr Richardson poses a danger to the public because of his lack of insight into his offence of common assault, not sexual assault, because he doesn’t understand the impact that his claim has had upon the victim,” Jung said.

Crown noted that Richardson had equated the impact of going through the court process to the original assault itself with the assessor preparing the presentence report.

Crown sought to have a three-year suspended sentence, while the defence wanted one in the range of 12 to 18 months, to allow him to benefit from programs such as for alcohol abuse.

Judge Jung in the end ordered Richardson to serve a 24-month suspended sentence, which means he will be under probation in the community.

In addition to the regular probation conditions, Jung put in place bans on Richardson from going to any public swimming areas, parks, daycares, schools or other places where minors are known to be, have no contact with any minor except in the case of incidental communication or if adults are present and he is barred from being in any volunteer position of trust or authority for a minor unless he has written permission from his probation officer.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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