Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers
A man from Port Alberni has been convicted of several violent sexual assaults on women.
Last month, 42-year-old Stephen Ewing pleaded guilty to violent sexual assault on six women, and last month his lawyer argued that he should spend four years in prison while the Crown sought six years behind bars.
But just before the judge was due to deliver his prepared verdict on Wednesday, there was an unusual twist.
Ewing’s defense attorney, Bert King, said his client agreed to a joint post proposed by the Crown, which would cause Ewing to spend six years in prison.
A lawyer unrelated to the case says judges should follow joint submissions unless they would bring the case into disrepute.
“It would require the judge to do what they both ask for, rather than anything else, which in theory could be more than what the Crown’s lawyer had asked the judge to impose,” said Michael Mulligan, a criminal defense attorney.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the assaults between March 2018 and August 2019 took place mainly in this Lantzville cottage, which was on a property Ewing previously owned for his business. Some of the other assaults happened in Nanaimo and Parksville.
Ewing wanted to hire sex traffickers, and after having sex as agreed, he would violently assault the women, in some cases seriously hurting them.
One victim was a 15-year-old girl who was advertised online as being 18.
“Mr Ewing not only sought consent, he deliberately went ahead, even though he knew he did not have it, so he’s going to serve a long federal sentence, and that’s appropriate,” said Nick Barber, the Crown’s lawyer.
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At the sentencing hearing, Judge Brian Harvey called the offenses “completely repulsive.” He sentenced Ewing to six years in prison, saying Ewing was “extremely lucky” that the terms of the joint filing were so reasonable.
“[They were] hard facts and hard for all the victims, so I’m just grateful that everyone came forward and was strong enough to do so, ”Barber said.
Ewing’s jail sentence will be followed by a 15-year order banning him from being with anyone under the age of 16, and that limits his internet use. His DNA will also be recorded in a national database and he will be identified as a lifelong sex offender. He will also be banned from using weapons for the rest of his life.
In a statement, the Haven Society, a Nanaimo organization that supports women affected by crime, called the survivors brave.
“The women who reported these sexual assaults showed great courage, perseverance and conviction while working to see their perpetrator accountable for his crimes,” the organization said.
According to the Haven Society, less than 5 percent of sexual assaults are reported, and of those, less than half result in a guilty verdict when going through the criminal justice system.
“We are still a place where society is slow to believe in victims of sexual assault without very clear forensic evidence of the crime,” they said.