News

Crown seeking three years for sexual assault of student

Former Langley teacher Deborah Ralph will learn her fate for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy on March 20, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

On Friday, Ralph pleaded guilty to sexual assault involving an 11-year-old former student.

Her victim and his family were in the court room when she made the plea.

Ralph’s jury trial was supposed to go ahead last month, but she decided to plead guilty instead.

Crown counsel David Simpkin is asking for a sentence of three years in jail for the “egregious breach of trust, given she is his teacher, she became a family friend, he was only 11 years old and to the grooming elements to this offence and the impact on the victim.”

Crown is also asking for a 10-year order that she stay away from persons under 16 with exemptions, likely involving family members. He also asked that she be put on the Canada sex offender registry for 20 years.

The defense is asking for an 18- to 24-month sentence to be served in the community.

The judge will have to decide when to apply the Criminal Code to the offences, because at the time of the sexual crimes, a conditional sentence was an appropriate sentence, defence reminded Supreme Court Judge Selwyn Romilly.

There have been considerable changes to the Criminal Code and how crimes against children are treated, said Simpkin. Since 2005, a minimum jail sentence must occur.

Ralph sexually assaulted her former student between December 1998 and June 2001, while the boy was between the ages of 11 to 13. The assaults included kissing and fondling, and she performed oral sex on him.

He broke contact with her, despite her repeated efforts to keep the relationship going, the courts heard.

The victim contacted Langley RCMP in 2011 to report the abuse. Ralph taught him in Grade 5 at James Kennedy Elementary School. However, the sexual interference didn’t occur until she was no longer his teacher.

The court learned that Ralph went to the victim’s family home to congratulate him on graduating from her class, and to offer him a job cleaning a family pool for the summer.

She told a court-ordered forensic psychologist that she considered her victim to be gifted and different. She connected with him better than she did her own husband and said her feelings on the relationship with her victim was akin to “young love” and that she didn’t see the harm that it would cause him.

The victim told the court, through his victim impact statement, that Ralph preyed on him because she knew his family life was unstable.

The victim explained how Ralph stole his childhood from him and has caused irreparable harm to his life, causing him to escape the shame and guilt by using drugs and alcohol, starting at the age of 12.

He drowned his guilt in alcohol, all the while not telling anyone what had happened to him. He eventually told his mother, who got him into counselling right away in 2005.

After coming out of rehab later in life, he found the strength to go to police in 2011. He suffers from depression and even with extensive counselling, has struggled to stay at work and function, he said.

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