A St. John’s judge posed a sobering question to Ashley Brake.
“I ask Miss Brake, if it had been one of her sons who fell victim to the same behaviour, what she would want for the offender?” Justice Gillian Butler said while sentencing Brake at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday afternoon.
The judge then gave Brake a one-year jail term, with three years’ probation, for having sexual relations with a 12-year-old boy.
“It is, no doubt, every parent’s nightmare,” the judge added.
Brake — a mother of two young sons — had no reaction to the decision, but could be seen smiling as a sheriff’s officer handcuffed her and led her out of court.
Brake appeared in the St. John’s court via video link with her lawyer Sandi MacKinnon from Newfoundland Supreme Court in Corner Brook, where Brake has been living for the past few years.
The 26-year-old had pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and sexual interference, but was convicted following a trial last spring.
The offences happened in the summer of 2011 in a small town on the Avalon Peninsula. Brake had been the boy’s neighbour and was in a failing adult relationship when she began a sexual relationship with the pre-teen. It included intercourse and fondling. She also texted the boy several times.
It lasted two months before the boy’s mother got wind of what was going on and contacted police.
The boy wasn’t opposed to the sexual encounters with Brake. He testified at the trial that he had considered them to have been in a relationship and didn’t want to get her in trouble.
“He did not object … but that is irrelevant,” Butler said. “A person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual activity (under the law).
“It’s an act that constitutes child abuse. … This will obviously affect the boy’s life for years to come.”
The judge said while there was no violence involved, Brake violated the boy’s sexual integrity.
She noted that the boy struggled to answer sensitive and personal questions about sexual encounters with a woman 11 years his senior.
The judge pointed out that Brake didn’t seem to have taken responsibility for what she did. She said Brake didn’t take advantage of the counselling opportunities offered to her. Even when she was given the chance to speak in court, she did not express regret, Butler said.
The judge said the only mitigating factor was that Brake was a youthful, first offender.
She noted that the lack of discipline during her adolescence played a role in Brake going down the wrong path and making inappropriate decisions about relationships.
Butler acknowledged that Brake has lost custody of her children and has embarrassed her family.
“You will carry this stigma of having committed sexual assault and sexual interference,” the judge said.
Crown prosecutor Natalie Payne had requested a two- to three-year jail term.
Butler said a conditional sentence would not have been appropriate, as the punishment needed to reflect society’s abhorrence of such crimes.
As part of the sentence, Brake must submit a DNA sample and will have her name listed on the national sex offenders registry for 20 years.
Conditions of her probation include that she stay away from the boy and his family and that she comply with any counselling recommendations made by her probation officer.
The judge said she had considered making an order to have Brake stay away from any public place where there are children younger than 16, but noted it would interfere with her co-parenting.