Quebec victims group surprised after man gets conditional discharge for sex assault

A crime victims advocacy group is expressing concern after a Quebec man was granted a conditional discharge last month after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a woman as she slept.

Marie-Christine Villeneuve of Crime Victims Assistance Centres says she worries the light sentence may be discouraging to victims and make them reluctant to report sexual assaults.

In the June decision, a Quebec court judge in Trois-Rivieres, Que., opted to give Simon Houle probation and a conditional discharge, in part because a conviction would make it hard for him to travel for his job as an engineer.

Houle pleaded guilty to sexual assault and voyeurism after assaulting an acquaintance and taking photos of the intimate parts of her body as she slept in 2019.

Judge Matthieu Poliquin found that the victim suffered significant harm as a result of the assault, including anger, shame, fear of seeing the accused, and consequences for her work and personal life.

However, the judge noted that the assault happened quickly, adding that Houle was a person with good morals who has taken therapy seriously and could become a useful person in his community.

Quebec's Crown prosecutors office says it will appeal the judge's sentencing decision.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.