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Former Langley teacher gets two years conditional sentence for sexual interference

Former Langley teacher Deborah Ralph was given a two year conditional sentence for sexual interference with an 11-year-old boy.

Ralph, who taught at James Kennedy Elementary, was sentenced on Thursday in New Westminster Supreme Court. Her victim wasn't present in the courtroom.

Supreme Court Judge Selwyn Romilly ordered that Ralph stay inside her residence for the first 18 months at which time a curfew will apply for the remainder of the sentence.

Ralph must perform 200 hours of community service, have no contact with the victim or any child under the age of 14 excluding her grandchildren.

She will be on the Sex Offender Registry for 20 years.

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.

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.

Ralph had opted for a jury trial before pleading guilty to sexual assault last month.

Crown counsel David Simpkin had asked for three years in jail and the defense wanted an 18- to 24-month conditional sentence.

Outside the courtroom, Simpkin said he is pleased with the judge's decision.

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

But Selwyn applied the law to when the crimes occurred which was between 1998 and 2001.

He also noted that Ralph isn't a danger to the community.

"She has no criminal record and there is no evidence whatsoever that she has engaged in any similar activity in the 14 years since the commission of this offence," said Selwyn on Thursday.

"She received a favourable psychiatric assessment . . . she is at a very different point in her life after a great deal of introspection and emotional growth."

He also noted that the sexual contact didn't include intercourse or violence.

Selwyn also placed a lot of weight on Ralph's chronic pain that she suffers from a 2008 car accident.

"An accused's infirmity is always a factor to be considered and may warrant a reduction in sentence."

He also noted that Ralph has significant caregiving responsibilities for her elderly parents and for her grandchildren.

"If sentenced to incarceration, she will be unable to fulfill these responsibilities," he said.

At the sentencing hearing, the victim read his impact statement saying Ralph stole his childhood, his innocence and caused him irreparable harm, causing him to start drinking and using drugs as early as 12-years-old. He also considered suicide on several occasions and suffers from depression.

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