A former Dalhousie University student has been handed a 29-month prison sentence for having sexual intercourse with another student without her consent during a night of heavy drinking in September 2015.
A jury found Christopher Davidson, 21, guilty on charges of sexual assault and unlawful confinement at trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax in February.
Davidson was sentenced Tuesday by Justice Glen McDougall, who said the case was “a very sad and sorry incident.”
The judge said the fact the sexual encounter began as consensual and that Davidson was heavily intoxicated may help explain what happened but does not excuse it.
“There can be no doubt that your actions on the night of Sept. 27, 2015, have had a profound impact on (the victim),” McDougall told Davidson, who grew up in Calgary but moved to Halifax to attend university.
“She continues to suffer in the aftermath of the sexual assault you committed and the unlawful confinement of her during the perpetration of that criminal act.
“I take no delight in sending you to prison. In all likelihood, you will carry with you for the rest of your life the negative consequences of your actions. Although you will eventually be released from prison, the guilt and shame you are experiencing today could be something you might never escape.
“I am not wishing that upon you, but that is something you will likely have to contend with as you move forward with your life.”
The complainant, now 20, and Davidson were first-year students when the incident occurred in her room at Howe Hall. They had attended a frat party after drinking vodka shots in her room.
The woman testified they were about to have intercourse when Davidson blurted out that he had never had sex before and had been waiting to have it with his girlfriend.
Upon mention of the girlfriend,
the complainant said she told Davidson to stop but he persisted. She said Davidson pinned her to the bed and swept her hands away when she tried to cover her genitals.
After realizing she couldn’t stop him, the woman said she placed a condom on Davidson because she didn’t want to have unprotected sex. On cross-examination, she also admitted that she helped guide his penis into her body.
Davidson has been living in Dartmouth and working in retail since dropping out of university after his first year of studies.
He chose not to testify in his own defence. Lawyer William Leahey told the jury his client had no recollection of the incident.
“If there was ever a case that the university should use . . . to warn incoming students about the dangers of the overconsumption of alcohol, this is it,” Leahey said in his sentencing submissions Monday.
The Crown asked for a sentence of three years in prison, while the defence recommended two years.
After taking an extra day to think about it, the judge decided the appropriate sentence was 29 months for the sexual assault and nine months concurrent for the other charge.
McDougall ordered Davidson to provide a DNA sample for a national databank and register as a sex offender for 20 years after he is released from prison. Davidson will also be prohibited from having firearms for 10 years.
“You do not strike me as someone who is likely to reoffend,” the judge told Davidson, who had never been in trouble with the law before. “Your presentence report and the many letters of support filed on your behalf attest to your character and indicate that you regret your actions and are remorseful.
“However, you must be held accountable for your criminal conduct. A message of not only specific deterrence but also general deterrence must be sent. The sentence will also reflect the public’s denunciation of unlawful conduct and the harm done to victims and to the community in general when this kind of crime is committed.”
Davidson stared straight ahead throughout the judge’s sentencing decision and showed no reaction. He turned and said goodbye to his supporters in the front row of the gallery, many of whom were in tears, before he was led away by sheriff ’s deputies.
Outside court, Crown attorney Glenn Hubbard shook hands with the victim and her parents before they left the building.
“I think Mr. Leahey said it well when he said this is a cautionary tale for anyone who feels they can drink to excess without consequence,” Hubbard told reporters. “There are consequences.
“The victim in this case showed tremendous courage. She battled her demons that existed prior to this case and she came through and showed great determination. . . . She can be proud of how she dealt with this.”
Leahey said this is one of the most emotional cases he’s handled during his 38 years as a lawyer.
“You can look at this case and you can see how this could happen to anyone’s child,” he said. “It could happen, because the impact of the alcohol is as powerful as the most dangerous drug and removes the inhibitions, removes the higher faculties. You put that in a situation where people are naked and it’s their first time away from home for both of them, and you’ve got the ingredients for this.”
Davidson was 18 at the time of the encounter and the victim was 17. Leahey said he wishes the “very best” for both young people.
“Obviously, the complainant is suffering very greatly, as the judge pointed out, and will continue to suffer. Nobody can really talk about that except her. The same is true, in a different way, for Mr. Davidson. . . . He will continue to suffer as well.
“There are no winners in any of this. We’re the functionaries of the judicial system and come along after the fact and make sure that we operate according to the rule of law and not the rule of emotion.”