By reviewing the sentencing transcript of a controversial decision by Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar in a Thompson rape case, The Uniter has learned that the Crown submitted evidence suggesting that the victim feared for her life during the violent and extensive attack.
“Your lordship did find on the facts that there was a comment from her asking if he planned to kill her,” said Sheila Seesahai, the Crown prosecutor in the case, adding that Rhodes continued with his sexual assault even after the victim expressed physical pain.
In sentencing Rhodes to a two-year conditional sentence, Justice Dewar accepted the facts submitted by the Crown.
“I accept the evidence of the complainant (victim) that when the accused laid the complainant down by the side of the road, he did not enquire whether she wished to continue,” said Justice Dewar in sentencing.
“There was no similar enquiry after she complained of being hurt by his digital penetration,” he added.
In the Crown’s submission to the court, Seesahai described the extensive and violent nature of the rape, which included sodomy.
The victim bears a scar on her knee as a constant reminder of the attack.
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court, the victim further described a series of bruises on her back.
“I draw to My Lord’s attention that the victim was so afraid that she fled, without pants, through the woods,” said Seesahai, speaking in front of Justice Dewar about the night of the attack.
“It was dark. It was the middle of the night in a remote area. She did this because the victim had to flee to escape Mr. Rhodes’ attack on her. She ultimately had to go on to a dark highway, without pants, trying to flag down help. And, ultimately, she had to ride back to safety in a vehicle with her abuser.”
The Crown also noted that Rhodes had only known the victim for roughly “20 minutes” before the attack.
Despite accepting the evidence of the Crown, the judge said that “there was no violence knowingly imposed” by Rhodes.
Justice Dewar also granted Rhodes a two-year conditional sentence despite the Crown’s recommendation that he deserved three years of jail time.
The Crown argued in favour of a three-year minimum sentence based on legal precedent established before mandatory minimum sentences were legislated by Parliament in 2007.
Allison Fenske, a lawyer for Winnipeg law firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, was outraged by media reports of the judge’s decision.
“I would be very surprised if the (Manitoba) Court of Appeal would not have an opportunity to consider the issue,” she said in response to a quote from the transcript of the Crown’s submission to the court.
“The problem is that you have a case here where the judge is relying on old, outmoded myths and stereotypes and on principles that aren’t part of law anymore,” Fenske said in an interview last week.
Seesahai could not comment on the case because she is currently pursuing an appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
Court of Queen’s Bench justices like Robert Dewar cannot comment on cases after making a final ruling.
To read more about this case, read Ethan Cabel’s story in the Thursday, March 10 issue of The Uniter.