Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers
A Port Alberni man has been sentenced for multiple violent sexual assaults on women.
Last month, 42-year-old Stephen Ewing pleaded guilty to violently sexually assaulting six women and last month his lawyer argued he should spend four years in prison while the crown sought six years behind bars.
But just before the judge was to hand down his prepared sentence Wednesday there was an unusual twist.
Ewing’s defence counsel, Bert King, said his client agreed to a joint submission proposed by the crown that would see Ewing spend six years in prison.
A lawyer unconnected with the case says judges must follow joint submissions unless they would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
“It would require the judge to do what they’re both asking for rather than something else which could, in theory, be more than what crown counsel had asked the judge to impose,” said Michael Mulligan, a criminal lawyer.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the assaults happened between March 2018 and August 2019 mainly at this Lantzville cabin, that was on a property Ewing previously owned for his business. Some of the other assaults happened in Nanaimo and Parksville.
Ewing would hire sex trade workers and then after having sex as agreed he would violently assault the women, in some cases seriously injuring them.
One victim was a 15-year-old girl who was advertised online as being 18.
“Mr. Ewing not only did he not seek consent he purposely went ahead even though he knew he didn’t have that so he’s going to be serving a lengthy federal sentence and that’s appropriate,” said Nick Barber, Crown counsel.
In handing down the sentencing Judge Brian Harvey called the offences “totally repugnant”. He sentenced Ewing to six years in prison and said Ewing was “tremendously fortunate” the terms of the joint submission were so reasonable.
“[They were] difficult facts and difficult for all the victims so I’m just thankful that everybody came forward and were strong enough to do that,” said Barber.
Ewings prison term will be followed by a 15-year order that prohibits him from being with anyone under the age of 16 and it limits his internet use. His DNA will also be registered with a national database and he will be designated a sex offender for life. He will also be prohibited from using weapons for the rest of his life.
In a statement, Haven Society, a Nanaimo organization that supports women impacted by crime, called the survivors courageous.
“The women who reported these sexual assaults demonstrated great courage, tenacity and conviction as they worked to see their perpetrator held accountable for his crimes,” the organization said.
According to the Haven Society, less than 5 per cent of sexual assaults are reported and of those less than half result in a guilty verdict as they go through the criminal justice system.
“We are still in a place where society is slow to believe victims of sexual assault without very clear forensic evidence of the crime,” they said.