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Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard sentenced to five years behind bars

Crown had sought a sentence between six and seven years behind bars

Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard was sentenced to five years behind bars on Thursday in the sexual assault of an Ottawa woman, an offence the presiding judge called a “particularly degrading rape.”

In delivering her sentence in a downtown Toronto courtroom, Ontario Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts said Hoggard’s offence involved “gratuitous degradation” and “gratuitous violence.”

“It is no exaggeration to say that (the woman) is no longer the same person she was before the attack. She was physically hurt … far more significant was the psychological hurt,” Roberts said.

“Whatever fleeting moments of gratification Mr. Hoggard derived from his conduct, they have come at the staggering and utterly unacceptable cost of forever changing (the woman’s) life.”

The judge said she accepted the woman’s evidence “in its entirety.”

The 2016 sexual assault took place in a Toronto hotel room and the Ottawa woman told Hoggard’s sentencing hearing that what happened will haunt her for the rest of her life.

The judge accepted as fact that Hoggard raped the woman multiple times anally, vaginally and orally, choked her, spit on her, called her a slut and a pig and oinked at her like an animal.

The Crown had sought a sentence of six to seven years – above the normal range for a sexual assault by someone with no criminal record, court heard. The prosecution argued Hoggard was a risk to the public.

Meanwhile, the defence had argued Hoggard should remain behind bars for three to four years. They pointed to a psychiatric report that said he was a low risk to reoffend and had a good chance of rehabilitation.

Dr. Hy Bloom, a forensic psychiatrist, was retained by the defence to evaluate whether Hoggard had any sexual paraphelias. He concluded Hoggard did not.

Bloom said Hoggard’s sexual problems were rooted in fans throwing themselves at him. Court heard Hoggard had some 200 sexual partners in his life, with 60 to 70 per cent of them being fans.

The judge said she did not accept Bloom’s report that said Hoggard was a low risk to reoffend.

“The Crown rightly points out that Mr. Hoggard was always impulsive and promiscuous, prior to and apart from his life as a rock star,” Roberts said.

“I agree with the Crown that we cannot say that Mr. Hoggard will never again find himself in a situation where he has a sexual opportunity, wants to validate himself, and impulse takes over.”

The judge said Hoggard’s sentence needed to be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and Hoggard’s circumstances, including his degree of responsibility.

“It must be sufficient to reflect the inherent harmfulness of a manipulative and particularly degrading rape,” she said. “In all the circumstances of this offence and this offender I believe a fit and appropriate sentence is five years.”

Outside court, Crown attorney Jill Witkin applauded the jury’s verdict and the judge’s sentencing decision.

“Mr. Hoggard’s conviction and sentence sends a message to our community that sexual violence will not be tolerated by anyone,” Witkin said.

Hoggard had also been charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm in the case of a teenage fan, as well as sexual interference involving that complainant but was found not guilty on those offences.

Witkin thanked both complainants for coming forward.

“They were very brave, came forward in 2018. They spoke to the authorities, they testified in court at a preliminary hearing and at trial and they should be commended for that,” she said. “It’s a difficult process, but it’s a necessary process.”

The 38-year-old Hedley frontman had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A jury deliberated for six days and twice found itself deadlocked on “some counts” before finding Hoggard guilty in June of sexual assault causing bodily harm in the Ottawa woman’s case.

The woman, who was in her early 20s at the time, said Hoggard choked her so hard she thought she was going to die. She testified the sexual assault lasted for hours.

Hoggard said at trial that he had consensual, “passionate” sex with both complainants.

He denied choking the Ottawa woman, but said the other elements described, such as spitting and slapping were among his sexual preferences – and could have happened.

At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, the Ottawa woman told court the incident left her paralyzed with fear and despair for months.

The woman, who cannot be named due to a standard publication ban, said the sexual assault robbed her of her confidence, her dreams and altered her life.

“I was never the same after that day,” she said. “A part of me died that day that I will never get back.”

The judge also recognized how difficult the trial was on the Ottawa woman, including the playing of a telephone call in cross-examination between her and Hoggard that the former musician surreptitiously recorded.

“Such an experience should no longer be an ordinary or expected aspect of being a complainant in a sexual assault trial,” Roberts said, citing a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision that upheld rape shield rules that prevent sexual assault complainants from being ambushed on the stand with recordings and other documents.

Hoggard has appealed the decision and is set to have a bail hearing Thursday afternoon at the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

After the decision was read in court, Hoggard, dressed in a black suit and tie over a white shirt, walked over to his wife in the court’s gallery. He hugged and kissed her goodbye.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered. “I love you so much. I’ll talk to you soon.”

Guards then handcuffed him and led him out of court.

—Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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