The sentencing hearing for a 47-year-old Carcross man has been adjourned to a later date, but he has been taken into custody.
Melvin Joseph Harper appeared in territorial court before Judge Michael Cozens last Friday in Whitehorse.
On July 30, Harper was convicted of breaking and entering a residence for the purpose of sexually assaulting the occupant. He appeared in court by phone, as he was in Slave Lake, Alta., caring for his sick mother at the time.
At an Aug. 22 hearing, Cozens declined to revoke Harper’s bail, as the latter was still in Alberta caring for his mother.
Cozens ordered him to be back in the territory and report to his bail supervisor by 4 p.m. Sept. 27.
The judge hoped this would give him time to settle his affairs ahead of the sentencing hearing scheduled for last Friday.
The offence dates back to Dec. 6, 2016 in Carcross.
The complainant testified that, after drinking with Harper and a friend earlier that day, Harper returned to her home and sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping.
Harper testified that he did not return to the complainant’s residence that night. He and his then-common-law spouse testified that he remained at his home for the rest of that day.
Harper’s lawyer, Norah Mooney, asked that the sentencing hearing be adjourned.
She asked for the adjournment because she had learned of serious Gladue factors during a phone appointment the day before the hearing.
She said Harper has a deficit in his education and has cognitive issues she did not have knowledge of. She did not provide further details.
Mooney added that Harper’s bail supervisor is also concerned about these factors and feels they need to be brought before the court.
She apologized to the judge and Crown prosecutor Jean-Benoit Deschamps for the late notice.
She told the judge that Harper has complied with his order, returning to the territory on Sept. 25.
His mother’s condition has stabilized and he understands he cannot leave the Yukon.
She said Harper currently does not have a job, and has six children and multiple grandchildren.
Deschamps said the Crown was opposed to the adjournment. He added that after the July 30 conviction, Harper did not make himself available so a Gladue report and a pre-sentence report could be compiled.
The Crown prosecutor said a lot of preparation goes into these reports. He added that the victim has to prepare to read his or her victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing. He felt Harper needs to be held accountable.
Deschamps suggested that if the adjournment is granted, Harper should be taken into custody.
“That would be in the best interest of justice,” the Crown said.
He added Harper could be facing a fairly lengthy sentence.
Cozens agreed that if he were to grant the adjournment, there was no reason why Harper could not go into custody after the hearing.
This would ensure that Harper meets all his appointments and obligations for sentencing, the judge said.
He asked himself how he can meet his requirements that Gladue factors are given proper weight in court despite the fact that Harper did not make himself available. He clarified that Harper misunderstood his obligations when he was in Alberta.
Cozens asked Mooney and Harper if they were aware he could be going into custody after the proceeding. Harper said he was.
The judge offered the complainant a chance to read her victim impact statement that day.
Deschamps asked for a brief recess to consider that. In the end, she decided to wait until the rescheduled sentencing hearing.
Cozens offered a compromise. He agreed to grant the adjournment but ordered Harper taken into custody immediately.
All parties agreed to reschedule the sentencing hearing to Dec. 11.
Cozens ordered that both the pre-sentence report and the Gladue report be complete and ready for that date.
Harper is also facing an impaired driving charge, which will be spoken to on Nov. 27 in Carcross.