At a party in Tulita last year, Stuart Campbell approached a woman, who, only two months earlier, had accused him of sexually assaulting her.
Campbell, who had been ordered not to contact the complainant after being charged with sexual assault, made a proposition: in exchange for not testifying against him, he’d give her between $500 and $1,000.
The woman refused and Campbell walked away.
In a Yellowknife court on Monday — more than a year after the encounter, which subsequently earned Campbell an obstruction of justice charge — the 26-year-old Tulita man received a four month jail sentence, followed by 18 months probation for attempting to persuade the would-be witness, an interference territorial Judge Michel Bourassa called “extremely serious.”
“He thought he could buy her off,” said Bourassa before handing down the sentence.
“He wanted to save himself the headache,” he added.
Crown prosecutor Pierre-Luc Bergeron called for a sentence of eight months custody, while Campbell’s lawyer, Jessi Casebeer, recommended a sentence of 180 days, noting her client’s circumstances as an Indigenous offender, his struggles with alcohol and his lack of a criminal record.
Campbell has one prior conviction.
In November, the sexual assault charge was stayed by the Crown. Campbell then went to trial in April in Tulita on charges of obstructing justice and breaching an undertaking.
He was convicted of both charges. It’s unclear at this time why exactly the sex assault charge was stayed.
Citing a similar incident, in which a man accused of sexual assault attempted to persuade a witness to change their testimony during a preliminary inquiry in Tuktoyaktuk, Bourassa said there seems to be a prevalence of accused individuals making efforts to persuade and pressure complainants, saying it’s “certainly a common situation.”
“ … Trying to interfere with witnesses must be condemned in clear and loud terms,” said Bourassa.
He said complainants should be free to come to court to testify without being pressured not to.
That pressure, he said, can be exasperated in small communities.
The complainant in the now-stayed sex assault charge against Campbell faces a “very difficult situation,” added Bourassa.
“She will be blamed, I have no doubt, for whatever happens to the accused,” he said before handing down his sentence, making it clear that the “consequences flow from his actions — not hers.”
Standing to address the court, Campbell said he’s trying to stop drinking.
If he doesn’t, replied Bourassa, it will only be a matter of time before he’s back before the courts.
For the breach of an undertaking conviction, Campbell was sentenced to time served.
He’s been ordered not to have any contact, directly or indirectly, with the woman he offered to pay off in turn for her silence.
That means, Bourassa warned sternly, “(Campbell will have) nothing to do with her.”