Whitehorse Daily Star

Sentence leaves officer with no criminal record

A former Whitehorse RCMP officer has been given a conditional discharge for a sexual assault charge related to his on-duty conduct.

By Emily Blake on February 14, 2018

A former Whitehorse RCMP officer has been given a conditional discharge for a sexual assault charge related to his on-duty conduct.

Const. Stephen Knaack pled guilty in November 2017 to one count of sexual assault for touching the buttocks of a female RCMP civilian employee without her consent.

Her name is protected by the court under a statutory publication ban.

On Tuesday, Judge Richard Schneider discharged Knaack, subject to a one-year probation order with conditions, for the charge.

During sentencing arguments in Yukon territorial court on Jan. 30, defence lawyer Brendan Miller had advocated for the conditional discharge.

He said the offence was on the lower end of the spectrum for a sexual assault charge, and that a discharge would be adequate.

Crown prosecutor Benjamin Flight, however, had argued a conditional discharge would be contrary to the public interest.

He noted RCMP officers hold a special power of position and authority, and said a suspended sentence would be more appropriate.

Both sentences require a period of probation with conditions, but a suspended sentence would mean the charge would go on Knaack’s criminal record.

In his written decision, Judge Schneider noted a number of aggravating and mitigating factors in the case along with details from a victim impact statement and Knaack’s pre-sentence report.

Schneider found aggravating factors included that the offence took place in the workplace while Knaack was on duty.

At the time, Knaack was a senior RCMP officer and supervisor who had been employed with the force for more than 17 years.

Mitigating factors, Schneider wrote, included that Knaack had entered a guilty plea at an early stage of the proceedings. The judge also noted Knaack had “expressed remorse consistently and unequivocally to the complainant and to his employer.”

According to court documents, the day after the complaint was filed against him, Knaack sent an unprompted email to then-Insp. Archie Thompson admitting to the incident.

He wrote it was “disreputable conduct for a member and a supervisor,” and “there is no tolerance of this in the workplace. There is no excuse for a man to force himself on a woman.”

Additionally, Judge Schneider considered that Knaack is a mature first-time offender who is capable of reform.

He also noted that Knaack has experienced a “complexity of negative consequences” from his actions.

On Aug. 24, 2017, Knaack received sanctions from an internal RCMP disciplinary process.

Those included requirements that he write an apology to the victim to be placed on his file and immediate transfer outside of the Yukon.

He was also required to forfeit 160 hours of pay at $8,023.08. He was demoted from the rank of corporal to constable, resulting in an annual salary decrease of $8,182, and he is ineligible for a promotion for three years.

Schneider also acknowledged a victim impact statement from the woman which stated she “will forever be impacted by this offence.”

She noted the incident has significantly affected her relationships with co-workers, family and friends. And she said she has had to take considerable time off work and pay for counselling out of her own pocket.

As well, Judge Scheider referenced Knaack’s pre-sentencing report, which he said was “very positive” with the author concluding he is a good candidate for community supervision.

A number of letters were also written in support of Knaack which stated the incident was “atypical and out-of-character” for him.

Judge Schneider concluded that while it was apparent that Knaack’s behaviour impacted the victim, the sentence must be “proportionate to the gravity of the offence and degree of responsibility of the offender.”

He said this means the court must impose “the least onerous and least restrictive” sentence that also meets the principles of denunciation, deterrence and rehabilitation.

“Mr. Knaack is remorseful and takes full responsibility for any harm that he has caused the complainant; though he maintains that no harm was intended. He takes full responsibility,” Judge Schneider wrote.

Comments (10)

Up 3 Down 1

jc on Feb 15, 2018 at 9:08 pm

When I think of all the women that flirted with me over the years when I was younger.. .They did a lot more than touch my backside. I took it as a flattering compliment. I sure didn't end up with a mental problem just a little more pride.

Up 1 Down 1

Thank Goodness! on Feb 15, 2018 at 6:12 pm

Well, his life must feel like it's ruined but thank goodness, not a criminal record. And I know Stephen, and have never, ever had anything other than professional relations with him--out of character is 100% right.
Now I bring up two cases, again: 1) the two officers in Watson Lake who faced no charges, demotions or consequences for their part in an alleged sexual assault of an intoxicated nurse and 2) that Colten Bouchie was shot, in the back of the head by G. Stanley and Mr. Stanley is facing NO CRIMINAL CONSEQUENCES. Are you telling me that you seriously think that Mr. Knaack should have a criminal record when the 2 cops and Mr. Stanley will not?
Let's hope for a favourable appeal in the Colten Bouchie case; cops lost all credibility with the two clowns calling themselves cops in Watson Lake--but let's not even dare think that putting your hand on a woman's rear end is more severe and hence means that he should have a criminal record. His life is ruined professionally and he's had to move away from his home--is that enough for those of asking for criminal charges?

Up 1 Down 6

grab on on Feb 15, 2018 at 5:06 pm

some serious double - or two-handed - standards here, cops grab and get away with no record even if convicted.

Up 2 Down 4

karyn atlin on Feb 15, 2018 at 12:24 pm

"but to take time off and seek counselling is indicative of pre-existing emotional problems." say what? And we wonder why there is still a stigma around mental health issues.

Up 8 Down 1

JUDITH HARROWER on Feb 15, 2018 at 9:16 am

How times have changed but not necessarily for the better. If only the officer just touched the co-worker's backside he has been handed quite enough restrictions & punishment. As with so many incidents once the reverse is brought out people jump on the bandwagon, and hence reality is obscured. To moan that her ability to perform her work has suffered along with her personal relationships but to take time off and seek counselling is indicative of pre-existing emotional problems.
No one approves of inappropriate touching but in this case when a male has make an error, which appears to be out of character (from what is reported), his discipline has been effective. Looking back at what male officers got away with in previous decades, this instance is minor & should not be blown out of proportion, despite the complaint's elaborate residue of how this impacted on her lifestyle. The #Me too movement has now swung too far to the right.

Up 4 Down 1

My Opinion on Feb 14, 2018 at 11:02 pm

I think that is fair. If you disagree go back and read the article explaining the agreed upon facts. I notice the news is no longer mentioning that anymore.

Up 1 Down 8

Josey Wales on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Gee....imagine my shock! Lead by example good leaders do, clearly he fails that category.
Obviously state actors are held to a lower account than us regular citizens.
Personally... my view is if that is your profession of CHOICE, you should be held to a far higher account than regular non law enforcement types.
To enable this behaviour, drop the bar for state actors as he...and you seriously wonder why disrespect of authorities is getting worse?
Want more respect for the stripes? Hold unprofessional members to account, fire and or charge the serious goons, perverts, and liars.

Up 7 Down 2

Jenn on Feb 14, 2018 at 5:57 pm

It's horrible this man has lost his job as a result. I'm happy he's not going to be on a sex offender registry!. I've had men do the same thing to me. And yes maybe not appropriate however there is a fine line between some unwanted attention and sexual assault. A mans career is ruined because of this. No wonder women have such a hard time getting employment in a male dominated world. Always someone taking things way to far.

Up 8 Down 1

B Fast on Feb 14, 2018 at 4:24 pm

I really feel for Constable Knaack. I believe that he misread a situation. I am well pleased that he got a discharge. I know that he also suffered a demotion etc., which is sad for thinking that someone might be seeing him "that way". If I encounter Constable Knaack in a working situation, I will hold him in no disrespect whatsoever for this incident.

Up 0 Down 11

ICO on Feb 14, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Now if this was any other person, they would have a criminal record for sure. Pathetic, just pathetic is our justice system. Mind continously blow by dispositions like this.

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