UPDATE: Former B.C. city councillor sentenced nine months for sexual assault

Dave Murray, convicted this past fall, hired a private investigator to intrude on the victim’s life.

Former Pitt Meadows councillor Dave Murray has been sentenced to nine months in custody for sexual assault.

Murray was found guilty of sexual assault in October 2017 by Judge Deirdre Pothecary.

He was sentenced today in Port Coquitlam provincial court.

Judge Pothecary said sentences have been rising for sexual assaults against children “as society recognizes the horrific consequences.”

She also noted in sentencing that Murray hired a private investigator to intrude on the victim’s life. The female investigator, said the judge, posed as someone who needed the victim’s advice, and made tapes of their conversations.

The judge ordered that those tapes be destroyed after the appeal process expires.

Judge Pothecary also said a conditional sentence would not meet required deterrence.

Probation conditions for Murray include a ‘no go’ to Pitt Meadows except driving through, as well as no contact with the victim or her family, and counselling as directed by a probation officer.

Murray is also not allowed to be in possession of firearms for 10 years and must submit a DNA sample.

Furthermore, he is not to work or volunteer with children under 16 years old.

Crown counsel Wendy Wakabayashi asked for nine to 12 months of “real jail” time. Defence lawyer Bob McRoberts requested a six-month conditional sentence, or house arrest.

Murray was first charged on Nov. 16, 2016 with one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference with a person under the age of 14 in relation to an incident in 1992. But Crown counsel asked for the second charge to be stayed, citing an inability to confirm whether the complainant was 13 or 14 at the time of the alleged assault.

Murray pleaded not guilty and elected a trial by provincial judge.

He remained on council, to which he was first elected in 2011, and attended regular meetings, as well as community events. He resigned as of January.

Wakabayashi said in court Wednesday that Murray had bought the girl clothing and taken her for dinner. On the day of the offence, he asked her to come into work early, and sexually assaulted her in the back of the store. The victim finished the day at work, but did not return.

Wakabayashi said although no minimum sentencing was in place at the time of the offence, and the constitutionality of minimum sentences is in doubt, they show that Parliament and courts take offences against young people by adults very seriously.

“Offending against children is always an aggravating feature,” she said in her submission, which took just over and hour.

Wakabayashi also said Murray was in a “quasi position of trust,” and that there was a significant age gap between him and his victim. Another aggravating factor she said was that the offence included genital touching.

Wakabayashi agreed with the mitigating factors that Murray has no criminal record, the offence is dated, and there is no indication of subsequent offences. She also said he has the positive support of family and friends.

She said Murray is not a risk in the community and the offence “seems to be a singular incident.”

However, she emphasized there is a trend away from conditional sentences when children are the victims.

The victim, whose identity if protected by a publication ban, read an impact statement in court.

She said she “felt unsafe in the world,” and that persons in authority “would hurt me and take what they wanted from me.”

She said the assault made her unsure of whether it was okay to be a girl and be attractive.

“What you did changed the sacredness of my sexuality,” said the victim. “I thought what you did was my fault, and punished myself for it.

“A piece of me disappeared that I can never get back.”

She spoke about how she ran into Murray in Pitt Meadows, and she stopped going to the gym and attending community events.

Members of the audience cried as she read her statement.

Defence counsel McRoberts noted that in Murray’s seven years on council, he worked for social causes, including a living wage policy and affordable daycare.

He noted that a forensic psychiatric report found Murray is no threat to re-offend.

The defence had a letter of reference on Murray’s behalf, written by Don Van Os, who said Murray volunteered as an assistant in helping coach basketball at Terry Fox secondary and that Murray was “always professional in his dealings with the girls.”

Judge Pothecary agreed it was a positive report.

McRoberts said the conviction had an “immediate and direct impact” on Murray, who was asked to resign from Pitt Meadows council, and was terminated from his employment with the Port Coquitlam Parks and Recreation department. McRoberts said the result has been “a severe financial loss” to Murray.

Murray applied for stress leave, but was denied.

Media interest in Murray’s case has brought shame and embarrassment to him, McRoberts said.

“It’s taken a huge toll on Mr. Murray.”

McRoberts said a period depression and hospitalization followed Murray after his conviction.

McRoberts said the shame brought on by the publicity of the trial is, in itself, a deterrent and denunciation, and that a jail sentence for Murray would not benefit society.

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