A man who was initially charged with nine sexual offences in Abbotsford and Mission has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for one of those charges.
Will Laws Clark, 26, was sentenced Friday (Jan. 22) in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack after previously pleading guilty to sexual interference of a person under 16 in Mission in 2017.
Two other Mission charges – invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault – were stayed at sentencing.
Six previous charges in Abbotsford – two counts each of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault – were all dismissed in October 2019.
The Mission case involved Laws Clark having sex three times in July and August 2017 with a girl who was 13 and then turned 14. He was 22 at the time.
Justice Elizabeth McDonald said during her oral ruling on Friday that the pair first exchanged messages and photos over social media, and both shared their actual ages.
Laws Clark then asked the teen if she wanted to meet in person. On the first occasion, the girl snuck out of her home between 12:30 and 1 a.m. and met him at a school parking lot.
Laws Clark then drove to a secluded location in a park. He first suggested they cuddle and then initiated sex, McDonald said.
A week later, the same situation took place.
The third incident was in August 2017, when the pair were watching TV together.
McDonald said the criminal behaviour was revealed when “news of their sexual encounters had apparently become a topic of local gossip.”
Laws Clark told the teen to deny having had sex with him, but when police began an investigation, messages between the pair were found on his phone, McDonald said.
He pleaded guilty in July 2020, and a subsequent pre-sentence report with a psychological assessment was completed.
McDonald said one of the doctors who interviewed Laws Clark concluded that his sexual history and abusive family background may have “negatively impacted his mental health and the development of proper sexual behaviour.”
At the time of the offences, Laws Clark described himself as “being high on drugs all the time” and being in “emotional turmoil” over the death of his grandmother, McDonald said.
She said he appeared to attribute his conduct to drug use and failed to focus on the harm caused to the victim, but did tell one doctor that he was “very sorry” and regretted his actions.
However, the judge said the girl was vulnerable at the time of the offences, and Laws Clark exploited that.
She referenced the victim impact statement that was presented at the sentencing hearing in which the girl indicated she has ongoing memories about the abuse that are affecting her “very negatively.”
She feels she is carrying a “heavy burden” and has daily anxiety for which she takes medication, the judge said.
“She feels completely changed as a person and she now looks at men differently,” McDonald said.
“These experiences with Mr. Laws Clark during the offences have created serious and long-lasting negative impacts on her well-being, including negative impacts to her mental and physical integrity.”
The Crown had recommended a sentence of two years less a day, while the defence had suggested 18 months.
Laws Clark’s jail term will be followed by two years of probation during which he must follow several conditions, including not being present with anyone under the age of 16 unless he is with a responsible adult or using a device to communicate online with anyone under the age of 16.