Listowel uncle, 60, jailed 90 days for touching niece

A 60-year-old man who admitted to sexually touching his five-year-old niece while she was visiting her father in his Listowel apartment is heading to jail.

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A 60-year-old man who admitted to sexually touching his five-year-old niece while she was visiting her father in his Listowel apartment is heading to jail.

But only for 90 days and only on weekends.

Ontario court Justice Kathryn McKerlie imposed the sentence – a joint submission on behalf of both lawyers – but spent some time emphasizing to both the man and the rest of the Stratford courtroom how lenient that sentence was.

“Absent the joint submission, the sentence I would have imposed in these circumstances for this type of sexual abuse of a vulnerable five-year-old victim would have been significantly longer,” she said.

The man, who can’t be identified due to a publication ban protecting his niece, was scheduled to go to trial in late June, but he made the last-minute decision to plead guilty to one charge of sexual interference. He was originally facing three charges.

Defence lawyer Michael Fair said his client should receive credit for pleading guilty on the eve of a trial as the girl, now in her teens, was reluctant to take the stand. Issues with evidence also cropped up that morning.

“The guilty plea is a significant mitigating factor,” Fair said.

Assistant Crown attorney Neil Dietrich agreed, pointing out the trial would have otherwise been adjourned and police would’ve had to take further statements from an already apprehensive victim.

“(He) gets significant credit for entering his plea in those circumstances because a conviction was not a sure thing,” he said.

“It was a reasonable prospect, but it certainly wasn’t a sure thing.”

The court heard one of the incidents took place when the girl was five years old, but she couldn’t remember how old she was during another occurrence. In both cases, her uncle inappropriately touched her and, during one incident, performed a sex act.

“It is a grave and serious offence to sexually interfere with a five year old,” McKerlie said. “You were a mature man preying upon your young, five-year-old niece who was visiting her father for the weekend.”

The girl’s parents were split up at the time.

The convicted had little to say when given a chance to speak.

“I’m sorry that it happened,” he said.

The man is a high school dropout with few friends and was never married, the court heard. He was vague about taking responsibility for the incidents and didn’t think he needed counselling, according to a pre-sentence report.

“It’s somewhat shocking that even after pleading guilty to this offence you would report that you do not feel that you need any type of counselling,” McKerlie said, adding it will be mandatory.

The victim declined to write a statement about how the incidents impacted her, but Dietrich said the crime and the court process has “had a toll on the victim, naturally.”

The man will begin serving his sentence this weekend in a London jail. He was also handed two years of probation, can’t communicate in any way with his niece, and has to register as a sex offender for 20 years. He can’t attend public places, such as parks, swimming pools or daycare centres, where people under the age of 14 would likely be.

tbridge@postmedia.com

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