Luke Strimbold, right, enters the Smithers courthouse May 6 with his lawyer Stan Tessmer, to plead guilty to four sexual assault charges. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Judge reserves sentencing decision in former northern B.C. mayor sex assault case

The Crown is seeking four to six years federal time; the defence wants 18 months in provincial jail

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has reserved her sentencing decision until next week in the sexual assault case of former Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold.

In Smithers today, Madam Justice Brenda Brown heard sentencing arguments from the Crown and defence and an emotional statement from Strimbold himself.

Prosecutor Richard Peck argued for a four to six year sentence saying the Criminal Code clearly makes denunciation and deterrence the overriding principle of sentencing in cases where children are involved.

He acknowledged mitigating circumstances such as Strimbold’s early guilty plea, lack of criminal record and favourable presentence report, but said the minimum for each count should be 12 to 18 months based on case law.

In May, Strimbold pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault involving four boys under the age of 16.

Peck said, because each count involved a different boy and occurred on separate occasions, the sentences must be served consecutively.

Earlier, co-counsel Jeff Campbell outlined the facts of the case noting particularly the aggravating circumstances that Strimbold had been in a position of trust and authority over the boys and had provided alcohol to them.

Campbell entered into evidence a number of victim impact statements clearly outlining the grave harm the assaults had inflicted on the victims and their families including anger, depression, fear, embarrassment, destroyed relationships, lost work and lost school.

For the defence, attorney Stanley Tessmer painted a picture of a compassionate, dependable good person with a long history of volunteer service to his community.

He said, at the time of the offences, Strimbold did not recognize the wrong he was doing due to his own history of sexual abuse, repressed homosexuality and addiction to alcohol. Tessmer outlined the steps Strimbold has taken, including extensive counselling, to address his issues and pointed to a psychological report that assessed Strimbold as being a low risk to reoffend.

He also submitted numerous letters of support from community members and a long list of accolades and awards Strimbold had received over the years, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.

Tessmer countered the Crown’s examples of case law with his own that had more aggravating and/or less mitigating circumstances than Strimbold’s, but in which the offenders received lighter sentences than the Crown is asking for in this case.

Tessmer asked for a global sentence of 18 months, nine months on the first count and three months each on the others. He also asked the judge to recommend Strimbold be incarcerated at the Ford Mountain Correctional Centre, a medium security facility for men in Chilliwack with a premier sexual offender treatment program.

At the end of the hearing, Strimbold adressed the Court choking out an apology through tears.

“I really am deeply sorry to each of [the boys] and will forever be regretful,” he said. “Through my own counselling and journey of identifying myself as being impacted by sexual offence in the past, there was a point when I recognized that and really broke down and seen the hurt that I was in and saw the hurt then that I caused other individuals that will be with them forever.

“It is my hope that they can surround themselves with love and family and get the help that they need so they can live a healthy life. And to the families and to the community that I cared so deeply about, I’m sorry I let you down. And to the individuals and to the victims I want them to know that this was all my doing and they should feel no shame for my actions.”

He promised not to reoffend and to continue his treatment.

Justice Brown said she needed time to assess the submissions and scheduled Dec. 4 to deliver her decision.


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