A man who took advantage of the vulnerability of his friend, intoxicated and almost unconscious, to sexually assault her will have to serve his 12-month prison sentence. His crime is too serious to justify the imposition of a prison sentence at home, considers the Court of Appeal of Quebec.

Boucherville resident Benoît Lemieux was found guilty of sexual assault in January 2021 after his trial at the Longueuil courthouse. He appealed against the guilty verdict and his prison sentence. The Quebec Court of Appeal, however, dismissed his appeals on April 12.

The 43-year-old assaulted the victim during a party at his home in 2018. The accused, the victim and the victim’s spouse had used MDMA (ecstasy) during the evening. Shaking and nauseous, the woman lay down on a bed with the help of the accused. She was then close to unconsciousness.

“Pretending to want to lie down to rest, the offender takes the opportunity to sexually assault the victim. […] He took advantage of the victim’s vulnerability to caress her breasts and vulva, and to try to insert his penis into her mouth in order to obtain fellatio,” the trial judge concluded. The magistrate had refused to grant absolution to the accused.

This decision from the province’s highest court addresses for one of the first times the use of conditional sentences – also known as “community jail” or “house arrest” – since the passage of Bill C -5 in Ottawa. This major amendment to the Criminal Code opened the door to the granting of suspended sentences for all crimes, except for very rare exceptions (murder, torture, genocide).

Suspended sentences granted to sex offenders have created controversy in recent months. A 20-month house jail sentence imposed on a man guilty of sexual assault has echoed all the way to the House of Commons. The Crown prosecutor had harshly criticized Justin Trudeau for this “backtracking” on sentencing.

Even though he was sentenced before the legislative change, Benoît Lemieux was eligible for house arrest due to his appeals processes.

Essentially, the Court of Appeal recalls that the stay cannot be imposed in all circumstances. In this case, incarceration is necessary, since the objectives of denunciation and deterrence must take precedence. There are indeed many aggravating factors in this case.

“Sometimes the situation is so serious, so serious, that this type of imprisonment [with a conditional sentence] is not enough. This is the case here, ”analyzes Judge François Doyon.

The Court of Appeal will certainly be called upon in the coming years to clarify the law on this subject. Judge François Doyon recalls that the legislative change is “too recent” to identify the judgments allowing the attribution of the conditional sentence to be compared.