A Grand Forks man was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to sexual assault, Wednesday, July 28.
Robert Daniel Andersen, 70, entered his plea at Grand Forks provincial court at around 10 a.m., reversing his not guilty plea entered in December 2020 and avoiding an estimated two-day trial. Andersen was convicted of sexual assault in 1994, according to the provincial Crown.
As part of a joint submission by Crown and defence counsels, Anderson told the court Wednesday that he’d groped a woman in November 2019 without her consent.
The court heard that Andersen took advantage of the woman, after she’d confided that she was going through an emotionally tough time. The woman accepted a hug from Andersen, who then touched her above and below the waist without invitation.
Andersen freely gave Grand Forks RCMP a written statement in which he took responsibility for his actions, but insisted he hadn’t committed a crime. He didn’t understand the law of sexual consent, according to his defence lawyer, Mason Goulden.
“He finds himself before the court as an elderly man running into 2021,” Goulden said, qualifying that Andersen had been “reckless” in not asking for consent.
“I’m very sorry,” Andersen told Judge Marianne Armstrong. “I understand from my conversation with Mason, what I did wrong here. I assumed it was consensual, but now I see that it wasn’t.”
In accepting counsels’ recommendation for a suspended sentence, Judge Marianne Armstrong took issue with Andersen’s defence.
“Regardless of your understanding of the law, there has always been a requirement for consent to sexual activity,” Armstrong told him, adding that he should have understood as much after his first conviction.
Armstrong then drew upon recent findings by the Supreme Court of Canada, noting that: “The sexual integrity of a person is something we now recognize, perhaps in ways that we didn’t decades ago, as an important and fundamental part” of a person’s rights.
The judge then stressed that Andersen’s sentence reflects the seriousness of his crime while sending a clear message to the community that “this is not okay.”
Noting that the complainant had come to him not only as a friend in need of support, the judge told Andersen, “You really took advantage of her.”
She then gave Andersen a year’s probation, ordering him to keep the peace, undergo counselling at the direction of his probation officer, and to stay away from the complainant. As a condition of his suspended sentence, Andersen was ordered to give Mounties a DNA sample. He will remain a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.