R. v. Richard
Her Majesty the Queen, and
Father Clair Richard, Defendant
 N.S.J. No. 325
Action S.P.H. No. 00883
Nova Scotia Supreme Court ‑ Trial Division
July 20, 1992
Criminal law ‑‑ Sentencing ‑‑ Indecent assault of child.
The 56‑year‑old male defendant was convicted of four counts
of indecent assault on a young boy. The defendant, a priest,
took advantage of his position of trust for his own sexual
gratification, and showed no remorse for the resulting long
term damage caused by the invasion of the sexual privacy and
integrity of the child. Four years on each count to run
concurrently. [Nova ScotiaLaw News, Vol. 18, No. 5.]
Richard J. MacKinnon, for the Plaintiff.
J. Michael MacDonald, for the Defendant.
GOODFELLOW J.:‑‑ The matter of sentencing of The Queen
and Father Richard.
Sentencing is a most unpleasant task and one of the most
difficult tasks confronting a trial judge. In sentencing
Father Clair Richard, there are a number of factors to be
taken into account, including the following:
He is 56 years of age, unmarried. His life has been his
2. FAMILY BACKGROUND
The Pre‑Sentence Report indicates that there were no
negative influences that caused Father Richard to act in an
Father Richard is a university graduate, having obtained
his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Francis Xavier
University in Antigonish, followed by four years attendance
at the Seminary inOttawa, after which he was ordained.
In 1977 Father Richard suffered a stroke for which he
was hospitalized followed by an apparent full recovery.
According to the Pre‑Sentence Report, in 1977 Father Richard
was sent to Southdown,Ontario, where he was treated for
alcoholism. He is quoted as saying, “A problem I never had,
and could not understand why I was sent there, it should have
been for sexual deviation.”
5. OFFENCE AND MAXIMUM PUNISHMENT PROVIDED
The maximum punishment provided by the Criminal Code
gives some indication of the seriousness of the crime from
the public’s perspective.
Section 156 of the Criminal Code in effect at the time
of these offenses dealt with indecent assault on a male and
156 “Every male person who indecently assaults another
male person is guilty of an indictable offence and is
liable to imprisonment for ten years.”
6. OFFENCE OF SEXUAL ASSAULT OR AS IT ONCE WAS ‑ INDECENT
The offence of indecent assault, now sexual assault,
covers a wide spectrum of criminal conduct, from non
consensual touching by one adult to another adult, to sexual
intercourse in its various forms between non consensual
adults, to the grossest violation of sexual integrity, namely
that of an adult to a child, sometimes to one that is only a
baby. In all cases there is a violation of ones ultimate
privacy and entitlement to personal sexual integrity. The
degree of violation often accounts, in part, for the degree
of variance in the sentences that have been meted out by the
7. RELATIONSHIP ‑ OFFENDER to VICTIM
In this case the offender is a priest and in my view
when the victim was a child of eleven or twelve years of age,
the sexual misconduct and abuse commenced.
In cases such as this the breach of trust is a major
factor to be considered in sentencing. The victim looked up
to Father Richard as God. The church, society and the
parents of children placed, or at least have in the past,
placed complete, total blind faith and trust in clergymen.
Those who have breached that trust by engaging in sexual
abuse of children must be prepared to pay the price. It is
difficult to conceive of a more gross and fundamental breach
of faith and trust then the violation of the sexual integrity
of a child by a clergyman, entrusted to him in faith.
8. OFFENSES THEMSELVES AND FACTUAL SITUATION
I will not review the factual situation in great detail.
Father Richard has been convicted of four separate charges of
sexual abuse of the same victim. The offenses here were,
particularly in the initial occurrences, deliberate and
planned and they occurred over a period of time, 1977 to
January 2, 1983.
Father Richard knew the victim came from a large,
relatively poor, religious family and provided the victim
with gifts such as a ghetto blaster and money. Such gifts
were not an act of Christian charity, but made to further and
facilitate the use of the victim for his own sexual
He used and abused the power and authority inherent in
his position in the community, for his own selfish interests,
without concern or recognition of the terrible hurt and
scarring caused to the victim. His initial resort to
wrestling with the victim was nothing but a cover for his
intended sexual relief and to provide an answer, should the
young victim dare voice objection or concern to anybody.
The wrestling proceeded and was tied in with the gifts
of money to the removal, on occasion, of clothes, physical
pressure of Father Richard against the young boy in such a
manner as to produce ejaculation of Father Richard over the
boy. The misconduct progressed to masturbation and
endeavouring to have the young boy engage in, what, as I
recall, the young boy referred to on the stand during the
trial as, dirty talk. The conduct of the young boy with
Father Richard became, as the boy testified, “learned
9. REMORSE OR PERHAPS MORE ACCURATELY STATED ‑ LACK OF
REMORSE IN THE ATTITUDE OF THE OFFENDER
In the course of the trial, evidence was tendered as to
the statements made by Father Richard after he had received a
reading of his rights and his entitlement to remain silent.
For example, during the drive from the manse toSydney,
Father Richard engaged in conversation with the R.C.M.P.
officers by asking a number of questions including, how does
one define sexual or indecent assault etc.. While Father
Richard did express some concern for his victim, his concern
was more for himself. He volunteered to the police that this
was his first sexual experience and attempted to deflect the
blame on the lack of sexual knowledge given to him by his
parents etc.. He somehow wants the victim to bear a high
measure of fault. Sexual abuse by Father Richard took place
at many different locations, such as in a field at Sight
Point and at St. Michael’s Glebe House in Margaree. Father
Richard exhibits an almost complete lack of appreciation for
the harm and scarring he has caused this young man.
Father Richard, despite his intelligence and education,
exhibits little remorse and would, if he could, shift the
blame upon the victim.
Quite probably with the passage of time the young victim
sought financial and other gifts from the priest. I do not
attach any blame to the child for developing this course of
conduct. It is one that followed from the training and abuse
visited upon him by his priest.
10. CHARACTER EVIDENCE
The character evidence of Mr. Macdougall, Mr. Day, and
the lady on behalf of Father Richard. Their evidence is a
sharp reminder of the position of trust held by a clergyman.
A clergyman is looked to for guidance and help with all sorts
of problems in life, and it is clear that Father Richard
performed well some of his priestly duties. Clergymen,
teachers, lawyers, parents and others who occupy positions of
trust cannot expect any mitigation by having fulfilled their
trust for a number of years. That is what is expected of
them. The fulfilment of trust over a long period of time
cannot mitigate the abdication of such trust.
The downfall of the offender does add another dimension
of tragedy which is already widespread, having affected the
victim the victims family, the church, society, and the
11. FIRST OFFENDER
It is not unusual in this type of case for the offender
to be before the court without any previous convictions.
When a person operates from a position of high trust in a
relationship with a child, the manipulation of the child
usually induces fear and guilt in the child coupled with a
recognition in the past at least that the probability of
being believed if any complaint was made would be close to
12. PRINCIPLES OF SENTENCING
These are well known and have been judicially stated
with frequency. In cases of sexual assault where the victim
is a child, our Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has made a number
of pronouncements and I refer to but two of them:
Chief Justice Lorne Clarke ,Nova Scotia Court of Appeal,
R. v Chisholm, 81 N.S.R. (2d) 421 at para. 11 & 12.
“In reviewing the sentences imposed by the trial
judge, we are unable to agree, with respect that
they were fit and proper in the circumstance. It
must now be evidence from what this court has said
in cases involving sexual assaults that general
deterrence must be an overriding consideration.”
Mr. Justice Macdonald wrote for this court in R. v
Murray(1986), 75 N.S.R. (2d) 361; 186 A.P.R. 361,
at p. 370:
“… This particular crime however appears to be
occurring with alarming frequency. As has been
stated many times, courts have an obligation to the
public to impose sanctions upon sexual offenders
that will clearly indicate society’s repudiation
and indeed abhorrence of their conduct.”
Chief Justice Clarke said:
“General deterrence must be a primary consideration
in offenses of this kind where youthful victims are
Chief Justice Clarke also spoke in the case of R.
v Wood, paragraphs 11 and 13, where he said:
“Under present circumstances courts have little
alternative but to use the sentencing process to
express society’s total abhorrence of acts like
those committed by this respondent. If defenceless
children are to receive some measure of protection,
the message must be send out to those who are
inclined to take their advantage that such will not
In that case he indicated in the unanimous opinion of
the court, the trial judge failed to give adequate
consideration to the protection of the public, both from the
commission of this type of offence and from this offender and
as a result the sentence in that case was increased. I do
not overlook the comments at page 6 of the Pre‑Sentence
Report that the Probation Officer stated:
“This offender does not appear to have had a recent
assessment regarding his behaviour and it is felt
that an extensive assessment, which would
illuminate this offenders psychological status and
the relationship between this psychological state
and the incident offence would be more helpful. An
intense treatment program could then be set up to
deal with the problem areas discovered via the
This I trust will be given a priority for those who have
custodial care of Father Richard.
I had the opportunity to observe this young man at the
trial and again at the sentencing hearing. It cannot be said
with certainty that all his present problems arise from the
sexual abuse received from Father Richard. There can be no
doubt, however, that the revolting misconduct of Father
Richard to this young man is at the very least a major
contributor to the sad state of his life.
I refer to the Psychological Services Reports of Dr.
Hanson, which are on the 7th of February, 1991, the 8th of
February, 1991 and the 13th of February, 1991.
On the 7th of February, 1991, Dr. Hansen wrote:
“Had initial crisis counselling session with victim
because of newly (first time) disclosed history of
victimization (sexual). Victim appeared agitated,
confused, but relieved at last. His parents are
being very supportive apparently, which was the
relief of one of his greatest lifelong fears. He
may eventually get more out of participation in
substance abuse programs and I will see him
On the 8th of February, 1991:
“Starting to deal with his feelings, long denied.
He is bright and moving through victimization, re
loss of parent contact, loss of schooling, self
esteem, comfort in human relations, etc.. Very
quickly but understandingly we’ll deal with it
again and again. He wants to pick up the pieces of
his life so that he can get advanced to a normal
life. All of his nine siblings (no records,
nothing). He is getting a lot of support from his
peers, some of them secretly disclose their own
victimization”. He indicated that he would see him
the following week.
On the 13th of February:
“Mr. M. is very ambivalent today towards having
disclosed to authorities and he is struggling with,
protecting the reputation of the perpetrator as
though to ruin the perpetrator’s life would be far
worse that the (seemingly continuous) damages that
has been inflicted on his own. His self esteem is
terribly low, to the point that I had to suggest
that his disclosure benefitted others, probably
younger victims of the same abuse.”
And there are additional comments the doctor has:
There is little doubt and I am satisfied the victim has
been badly scarred by Father Richard and this follows from
the invasion of this young man’s sexual integrity.
14. CROWN COUNSEL
I weighed carefully the remarks of counsel for the
15. DEFENSE COUNSEL
I weighed carefully the remarks of counsel for the
16. PRE‑SENTENCE REPORT
I have considered also the remainder of the Pre‑Sentence
Report. The offender takes no exception to the contents of
the Pre‑Sentence Report.
17. CASES ‑ STARTING POINT
Other cases and the length of sentences previously
handed down. I have reviewed all the sentencing cases
referred to me by counsel. Determinations from other
decisions, including those from Appellate Courts are useful
and important guidelines.
In the final analysis, the sentence in each case
reflects to a considerable degree the circumstances of the
offence, the circumstances of the offender and the
circumstances of the victim, weighed in light of the well
known sentencing principles.
Sexual assault seems to break down into three categories
or levels for the purposes of sentencing. The first is non‑
consensual touching, fondling, rubbing etc., where the sexual
misconduct falls short of masturbation, sexual intercourse,
oral or anal intercourse.
The next category is where the invasion of sexual
privacy and integrity reaches the stage of masturbation,
sexual intercourse, oral or anal intercourse. It is usual at
this level that you find that such conduct is on a repetitive
basis by a person in trust involving a child.
The final category is where the conduct of the second
category exists and there are added dimensions such as
physical violence, threats of violence, the use of substance
abuses, etc., etc., the misconduct being the grossest kind
imaginable, indeed, this conduct is such that it is really
unimaginable to any reasonable person.
By attempting to categorize factual situations and I am
merely endeavouring to establish a starting point with the
full recognition that the categories are not water tight
compartments. The invasion of a persons home generally calls
for a starting point in sentencing of three years
incarceration. The kind of offenses for which Father Richard
has been convicted tend to be far more reaching in the degree
of invasion of privacy and the consequences that follow.
This case falls within the second category in that we
are dealing with an offender who was in a position of the
highest trust and took advantage of that position for his own
sexual gratification in relation to a child. The offenses
occurred over a period of time. It is desirable to achieve
uniformity in sentencing, however, the best you can really
hope for is a measure of uniformity within a range because no
two factual situations are identical. When you are dealing
with human beings and conduct, variances inevitably occur,
for example, the degree of impact on the victim may vary
dramatically, etc., etc.. In my view the range of sentencing
that is appropriate for someone who is guilty of an offense
generally outlined in the second category is for a term of
imprisonment from three to five years.
Would you please stand up Father Richard.
Q. Have you anything to say to the court before I
pronounce sentence upon you?
A. No comment.
On the First count, the sentence of this court is that
you be imprisoned for a term of four years, similar sentences
to run concurrent are entered on each of the other counts.
End of document.