The following story contains details of child abuse and sexual assault. Rapid access counselling is available in the Yukon at 867-456-3838.
The Yukon Territorial Court has sentenced a man to three years in prison after he was convicted of paying an acquaintance’s child for naked photographs and then later for sex.
Andrew Couch, who was in his early- to mid-twenties at the time of the offences, entered guilty pleas to possession of child pornography, sexual interference, communicating with a minor for a sexual purpose and failure to comply with a court undertaking. He was sentenced for these offences on Sept. 23.
Additional charges of sexual assault and communication for the purpose of obtaining commodified sexual activity were stayed prior to sentencing.
“You have pled guilty to some very serious charges. The crimes that you have pled to include the sexual assault, and I think it is well understood sexual activity with a ‘child’ — and I use that word carefully — is a serious crime,” said territorial court judge Timothy Killeen during sentencing.
Kileen noted the “significant, if not irreparable harm” Couch’s actions caused to the young victim. That victim was 12 and Couch was 22 when they first met — Couch was in a relationship with someone in the pre-teen girl’s life but continued spending time with the girl after the relationship ended.
Reading from an agreed statement of facts filed with the court, Killeen said that beginning in December 2019, Couch requested that the girl send him naked pictures in exchange for money. The court heard that the girl sent pictures on approximately eight occasions between December 2019 and June 2021. Three or four pictures were sent on each occasion.
The court heard that between December 2019 and 2020, the girl performed oral sex on Couch twice, also in exchange for money. He also paid $500 for vaginal intercourse when he was 23 or 24 and she was 13 or 14.
“Over the course of time, you had paid her between $1,100 and $1,700 in accordance with an agreement for vaginal intercourse, oral sex and sending naked pictures. You also asked for naked pictures which are specified in the agreed statement of facts, and I do not have to get into them,” Killeen said.
Killeen said his first reaction was to impose a more stringent prison sentence than the one proposed by lawyers noting the precedent set in a Supreme Court case dealing with a similar matter. He also noted significant mitigating factors: Couch’s lack of a criminal record, his young age and difficulties he has experienced.
“Nobody has suggested that they justify what you did, but I do think they are important for me to consider in terms of understanding what is necessary to get a message through to you as well as other members of the public,” the judge said.
Killeen also considered the man’s guilty plea an expression of remorse and a mitigating factor. He noted that without the guilty plea, the young girl might have been further victimized by having to testify at a trial. The judge added that Couch seems to have some insight into the nature of the problem that caused the crimes — he said this speaks to his hopes for rehabilitation.
With all factors considered, Killeen said he would impose the sentence recommended by counsel.
Couch faces 12 months behind bars for the child pornography charge and a further 24 months for the sexual interference charge. These will be served consecutively for a total of 36 months. Another year is imposed for the communication with a minor for sexual purposes charge and 45 days is levied for breaching court conditions but both of these will be served concurrently with the other sentences.
Killeen also ordered Couch to provide DNA samples, register as a sex offender for 20 years after his release from prison and that he not possess any weapons for two years following his release. He will also be bound by an order to not contact the victim during his sentence and will have to stay 100 metres away from the victim’s home and school after his release. Couch will be barred from any volunteer position or employment that puts him in a position of trust over anyone under 16 years of age. He will be barred from unsupervised contact with people under 16 who he isn’t related to with a few exceptions.
Couch will be banned from using the internet to communicate with anyone under 16-years old for five years post-release and also won’t be able to use it to view sexually explicit material. His communications devices will be subject to inspection by police or parole officers.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org