Too often, our criminal justice system is ill-equipped to deal with the sad brutishness of real life.
Consider the recent case of the 43-year-old Dartmouth man convicted of an incestuous relationship with his then-17-year-old daughter.
The facts are relatively straightforward. In September 2012, the young woman — who’d been living on the streets in Ontario, addicted to drugs and alcohol, committing crimes — returned home to Nova Scotia to meet her biological father. She moved in and, within the month, they began having unprotected sex. Two years later, she gave birth to a baby boy. Less than two weeks after that, Community Services seized the child.
Incest is illegal in Canada, so the man was charged, convicted and sentenced last week to four years in prison.
But let’s peel back the onion layers of these particular unhappy lives lived.
The man has a Grade 2 education. He was abused as a child. He grew up to be an abuser. In 1995, he was convicted of sexual interference involving two of his neighbour’s children in Ontario.
The man’s own daughter — it was not clear from the reports I read whether the father had any role in her upbringing — has what were described as “cognitive difficulties,” and spent time in high school special education classes before winding up on the streets.
She was, in the words of the Crown and reported by Steve Bruce of Local Xpress, “emotionally neglected for most of her life.” Until, that is, her relationship with her father. “She told police she knew he would not leave her and would love her forever,” the Crown said. She did not consider herself a victim, and refused to file a victim impact statement.
It seems clear the man did not see anything wrong with what he’d done either. “I want to have her in my life,” he said in his pre-sentence report, “but not sleep with her since the police say I’m not allowed to, even though I think that is stupid and they shouldn’t be allowed to tell me not to sleep with her.”
So the man is on his way to federal prison. His daughter has lost both the father she believed would “love her forever,” and her son, who will now be brought up by someone else.
Correction: This version has been updated to properly attribute several comments about the case, which were, in fact, made by the Crown attorney.