A former Cloverdale youth pastor who was found guilty last fall of sexual assault should spend three years in jail for the crime, a Surrey Provincial Court judge heard Tuesday (Oct. 6) morning.
In submitting the term was appropriate for Samuel Emerson – who the court heard was raised in the Surrey/White Rock area – Crown prosecutor Jodie Harris said Emerson was in a position of trust when the offence occurred, was found to have been “almost persuading (the victim) into a sexual relationship” and has shown no remorse.
As well, Emerson “doesn’t appear… to have embarked on any proactive rehabilitation” in advance of the sentencing hearing.
“We submit the offence was a serious sexual offence… because it involved the use of manipulation,” Harris added.
That and other factors “take it out of the bottom of the two- to six-year” jail term that is standard for the offence, Harris said.
Defence counsel Brock Martland agreed the crime warranted “significant real jail time,” but submitted a two-year term was appropriate.
It’s “a powerful, serious sentence that achieves the aims of deterrence and denunciation,” Martland told the court. It will have a “massive impact on a 37-year-old man that has no record,” he added.
Emerson, a father of five, was convicted Nov. 13, 2019 of one count of sexual assault, following a trial last year on multiple charges that included two of touching a young person for a sexual purpose.
Cleared of all but the one sexual assault charge, he attended Tuesday’s proceedings with his wife Madelaine and other supporters.
Court attendees also included a representative of the Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church who gave a community impact statement; a statement from the victim – whose identity is protected by a publication ban – was also read into the record.
The RCMP announced charges against both the husband and wife in October 2017, in connection with assaults that were alleged to have occurred between 2013 and 2017 at the Emerson family home and at the Cowichan River Bible Camp.
Following the trial, Judge Mark Jetté cited reasonable doubt in finding the couple not guilty of the majority of charges.
Madeleine Emerson was cleared of all allegations.
In finding Samuel Emerson guilty of the one charge, Jetté concluded that the complainant’s apparent consent to have sex with the then-pastor was induced.
In the victim’s letter to the court, she describes experiencing spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of “one of the people I trust most in my life.”
“My faith and everything I believe was changed,” she said. “Samuel Emerson’s actions will impact me the rest of my life. This is something he should be held accountable for.”
Defence counsel disputed Harris’ assertions that Emerson has resisted treatment and is not remorseful. He is willing to undergo therapy, however, “it’s fair to say he hasn’t done that work – yet,” Martland told the court.
As for remorse, “looking back, I think it’s fair to say that he recognizes there were parts of how he handled things that were not optimal.”
Martland noted letters in support of Emerson describe him as hardworking, genuine, caring, encouraging and positive, and that a psychological risk assessment found him to be a low-moderate risk to reoffend.
The hearing was scheduled to continue through Tuesday.
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