A Manitoba teen sexually assaulted by a now-retired RCMP officer when she was nine years old says she continues to live in fear of being attacked.
"I am living the consequences of your actions," the girl wrote in a victim-impact statement provided to court for the sentencing Tuesday of 61-year-old Robert Dowd.
"I have felt intruded by you every single day and it is still there seven years later," the girl wrote. "I can’t work alone, I can’t walk the hallways at school alone."
Provincial court Judge Keith Eyrikson sentenced Dowd to 18 months in jail and one year of supervised probation, describing the assault as "repugnant."
“I have felt intruded by you every single day and it is still there seven years later. I can’t work alone, I can’t walk the hallways at school alone.” — Sexually assaulted Manitoba teen's victim-impact statement
The girl said she has lost the ability to trust anyone and feels guilt for "ruining" her family. Court heard the girl has battled depression since the assault, started cutting herself and has twice attempted suicide.
"I feel there is not a soul on this planet who understands what you put me through," she said. "I lost my youth because of you. I never got to be the carefree kid who lived life to the fullest."
Dowd was first convicted of assaulting the girl following a trial in 2017. That conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered, after the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled last year the original sentencing judge erred in assessing Dowd’s credibility.
Dowd continued to maintain his innocence Tuesday. "I am innocent of what I have been accused of," Dowd told Eyrikson before learning his fate. "At no time did I touch that girl inappropriately. I will continue my fight to prove my innocence."
Dowd’s sentence is eight months longer than the one imposed by the original trial judge. Dowd’s lawyer Sarah Inness argued imposing a longer sentence would effectively punish him for appealing his original conviction.
“I feel there is not a soul on this planet who understands what you put me through. I lost my youth because of you. I never got to be the carefree kid who lived life to the fullest.”
Eyrikson said the longer sentence recognizes the direction of a 2020 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled sentences for child-sex offenders should increase as society’s understanding of the harm inflicted on children deepens.
"The focus in this matter is on the harm done," Eyrikson said. "Despite the strong presumption I should follow along with the original sentencing judge’s submission, I have found that the (Supreme Court ruling) amounts to a reset," he said.
Court heard evidence at trial Dowd assaulted the victim when he was off duty during a bonfire party in the Interlake. Prosecutors alleged Dowd was alone with the girl "stargazing" when he put his hands under her clothes and fondled her for approximately three minutes.
Dowd denied the allegation, testifying at trial the only time he was alone with the girl was when he took her to his motor home to use the bathroom.
Eyrikson, at a hearing last July convicting Dowd, said he had "significant difficulty" with his testimony.
“She knew right from wrong at nine years old. She stood her ground, she didn’t back down from him, she wasn’t scared to face him… I just hope that other young girls can use her as a role model and step up and not suffer in silence.” — Victim's mother
Dowd told court he showed the girl how to use the toilet and waited outside for her for 10 minutes before he "lost track of her" and left.
Court heard testimony Dowd and the girl arrived back at the bonfire at the same time.
"It was clear from his evidence he was making sure this nine-year-old girl was safe and supervised while he was with her, then when (she) finishes in the bathroom, he simply abrogates this responsibility and leaves her on her own," Eyrikson said in July
"This, on a cold, dark night, by all accounts, leaving her in an RV she has never been in before. This is a former RCMP officer and grandfather. It defies common sense and logic that he does nothing further to make sure she got back safely to the campfire."
The girl disclosed the assault to her father hours later, provided two statements to police and testified at the trial.
"We are so proud of her," the girl’s mother said outside court Tuesday. "She knew right from wrong at nine years old. She stood her ground, she didn’t back down from him, she wasn’t scared to face him… I just hope that other young girls can use her as a role model and step up and not suffer in silence."
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.