Sexual assault survivor speaks out, cries as sentencing delayed over victim impact statement

Victim cries after case delay

A woman who was sexually assaulted in her Kelowna home by a stranger will have to come back to court again to deliver her victim impact statement.

She was prepared to read out the 17-page document Monday at a sentencing hearing for Joshua Hawco. However, because she didn’t file the victim impact statement in accordance with requirements set out in the Criminal Code of Canada, the sentencing has been delayed.

Last November, Hawco was found guilty of sexual assault by a jury in a case dating back to Dec. 24, 2020. He arrived at the woman’s apartment in the early morning hours after contacting her roommate through a social media hook-up site.

Hawco had sex with the roommate and later entered the other woman’s room while she was passed out, pried her mouth open and started having oral sex with her before she woke up, frightened and confused. He then briefly left the room, came back with a condom and sexually assaulted her again. He then abruptly left the room, gathered his belongings and left the apartment, but forgot a toque.

The woman went to police and Hawco was later charged with sexual assault.

Crown counsel in the case argued Monday that Hawco should be sentenced to four years in prison, calling the assault “disgusting” and “very difficult to understand to people who are decent”. He also argued that the accused is dangerous and a risk to reoffend because he continues to deny the sexual assault.

The victim, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, spoke out in frustration from the gallery when the case was delayed because of problems with her victim impact statement. She told the judge she could sign and date the document “right now." That was overruled by the judge.

The woman could be heard crying as Hawco’s lawyer rose to make his case for a sentence of one year in jail and two years probation. He accused the prosecutor of as coming across as an advocate for the victim, and pointed out that his client has no prior criminal record.

The Crown said the normal range of sentences for sexual assault is two to six years. The case has been adjourned to Monday, June 3, 2024 to fix a date for continuation.

Last month, Hawco applied to have a judge declare a mistrial in his case and have the jury's conviction thrown out entirely.

In his application, he pointed to the Crown's failure to completely disclose a statement the victim made to police. Of the 83-page statement, five pages were blacked out.

Hawco's defence counsel successfully applied to access the redacted portions of the statement post-conviction in January, and after reading the full statement, the defence argued he would have proceeded differently if he'd had it prior to trial.

While Justice Gary Weatherill said Hawco's arguments were “weighty and persuasive,” a judge has limited power to overturn a jury's verdict. He said this can only occur “in exceptional cases and where exceptional circumstances exist.”

“Having reviewed the Redacted Portions, and although possibly relevant to the defence, on balance I am not persuaded that they reached the level of materiality that would warrant a mistrial being ordered,” Justice Weatherill said in the ruling.

“Further, it must be kept in mind that this was a sexual assault case. [The victim] has already been through one trial and I have no doubt she has no interest in testifying again at a new trial. The public has an expectation that there is one trial per indictment, and a mistrial should only be declared as a last resort.”

However, Justice Weatherill noted that the BC Court of Appeal would be the appropriate place for Hawco to argue that his Charter right to a fair trial had been violated.

-with files from Nicholas Johansen

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