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Delays hinder sentencing in Kelowna sexual assault trial

Joshua Hawco was found guilty of sexual assault in 2022 and has yet to be sentenced
Joshua Hawco is guilty of sexually assaulting a woman he did not know who was sleeping. (Submitted)

Warning: This story discusses sexual violence that may be triggering for some readers.

Another delay in sentencing brought a victim of a sexual assault to tears in Kelowna’s Supreme Court on May 27.

The sentencing, which would have marked the end of a four-year legal battle for the survivor of the assault, was delayed because the victim impact statement she prepared was too long.

“I’m still reeling from how gut-wrenchingly horrible that was,” said a person who was in court and witnessed the proceedings, in a statement to Black Press Media. Due to fear of repercussions, the person has asked to remain anonymous.

The survivor will be referred to as Jane Doe as her name cannot be released due to a court-ordered publication ban. Doe has previously said she feels as though she has been living in a nightmare for the past four years since the assault took place on Christmas Eve, 2020.

Two years after the assault, on Nov. 5, 2022, Joshua Hawco was found guilty of sexual assault in a unanimous decision by a jury of 12 people.

READ MORE: Jury finds Kelowna man guilty of sexual assault

Prior to the beginning of the proceedings, Hawco had the option to elect for a trial by jury and judge or by judge alone, as is the case for any person accused of a serious crime. Hawco chose to proceed to trial with both judge and jury.

During the trial, Doe testified that she had been sleeping in her bed when she was woken up by Hawco as he was sexually assaulting her in the early morning. He was a stranger to her and had been invited over to the residence by her roommate for a first date. After her roommate fell asleep, Hawco entered Doe’s room while she slept and assaulted her in her bed.

Months after the jury’s verdict, but before sentencing, Hawco filed an application for a ‘post sexual assault conviction’ mistrial, which has resulted in delays in sentencing.

READ MORE: Kelowna woman speaks up for survivors of sexual assault, hoping for justice

Hawco claims to have had his Charter rights violated as a portion of Doe’s statement was redacted in the submissions he received. After the guilty verdict, he applied for and was granted access to the redacted portions of the statement.

Based on the court documents available to the public, it is not clear exactly what information was redacted but Hawco submits that the information would have been useful to know prior to the trial and may have aided in his defence.

Crown argued that the onus on applying for disclosure is on defence and said Hawco’s lawyer had the time and opportunity to request un-redacted copies of the statements before the beginning of the trial.

On March 28, 2024, Justice Weatherill denied Hawco’s application stating; “Having reviewed the Redacted Portions, and although possibly relevant to the defence, on balance I am not persuaded that they reached the level of materiality(sic) that would warrant a mistrial being ordered,” and dismissed the file.

On the day that was scheduled for sentencing, Doe had prepared to read her victim impact statement to the court.

Before the impact statement was read, Hawco’s lawyer argued that because it did not meet the standards outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada, the statement should not be read to the court.

Justice Weatherill conceded and ruled that the statement was to be amended and a new date would be set for sentencing.

Court will reconvene on June 3, to fix a date for sentencing.

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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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