The fate of a Kamloops man who repeatedly raped his niece over a period of years is now in the hands of a B.C. Supreme Court judge.
Last May, a jury found Nihal Maligaspe guilty on two of three counts of sexual assault related to numerous incidents involving his niece, Dinushini Maligaspe, who he helped emigrate to Canada from Sri Lanka in 2001. Court heard he began to force himself on her about a year or two after her arrival in Kamloops.
Crown prosecutor Katie Bouchard is seeking eight years’ prison time for Maligaspe.
On Wednesday, defence lawyer Jay Michi asked Justice Miriam Gropper to consider a sentence of two years less a day in prison, plus three years of probation.
“Mr. Maligaspe comes before this court at 72 years of age with no criminal record, a strong record of employment and support from the community. Mr. Maligaspe is remorseful,” Michi said.
Michi said Maligaspe has lost his marriage, his relationship with his children has been fractured and he has been subject to “intense media scrutiny” as the trial has progressed.
He said Maligaspe underwent a psychological risk assessment last summer that determined he is a low risk to reoffend and would benefit most from receiving treatment at a provincial institution, which is geared towards lower-risk offenders.
Michi summarized the risk assessment report saying the psychologist found Maligaspe had “little awareness of his responsibility as it related to establishing sexual consent,” and hadn’t considered the issue of power as it related to consent until the trial.
According to Michi, the psychologist noted Maligaspe was avoidant at first, and would struggle to answer questions in depth, but began to “engage more authentically” as the assessment went on.
Michi said it’s true the psychologist’s report identifies Maligaspe as having a lack of awareness or “under-developed understanding” of consent, but “it also demonstrates a willingness on Mr. Maligaspe’s part to engage with treatment and education.”
“Her report does not reveal a lack of remorse per se. It reveals impediments that presently exists in Mr. Maligaspe’s fully having an appreciation for the harms done to the victim. In any event, Mr. Maligaspe, I say, is remorseful.”
Maligaspe provided a short statement in court on Wednesday, apologizing to Dinushini.
“I did not see or realize how much my actions were affecting her life,” Maligaspe said.
“I never intended to cause her any pain, and will ensure that nothing like this every happens again.”
Michi read aloud a number of character reference letters submitted by some of Maligaspe’s family members, a former colleague and other members of the community.
Some letters spoke to Maligaspe’s compassion and professionalism. Other letters indicated the news of Maligaspe’s actions came as a shock, but they know he is remorseful and ready to take steps to rehabilitate.
Bouchard said the letters were overwhelmingly positive, while adding good character is “of little probative value on sentencing an offender for a sexual offence.”
“They paint him as someone who was well-loved and respected, well liked by all, someone who was beyond reproach. But respectfully, it was precisely that position in society that enabled him to sexually abuse Ms. Maligaspe for as long as he did in private,” she said.
Bouchard said she was also concerned that some of the letters appeared to be “so similar it cannot be a coincidence,” giving examples of several sentences which sounded much the same.
After hearing submissions from Crown and defence lawyers, Gropper said she needs time to consider her decision.
Both parties are due back in court on Monday to fix a date for sentencing. It’s expected it will happen in the last week of May.