Prosecutors want to see the prison sentence nearly doubled to more than six years for a university faculty member who raped his niece repeatedly over a period of years.
Nihal Maligaspe, 72, was sentenced in June to 3.5 years in federal prison. Last year, a jury found Maligaspe guilty on two of three counts of sexual assault stemming from a series of incidents involving his niece, Dinushini Maligaspe, who he helped emigrate to Canada from Sri Lanka in 2001.
Prosecutors have appealed Maligaspe’s sentence. During a brief hearing Monday in the B.C. Court of Appeal, Crown prosecutor Mary Ainslie said the 3.5-year sentence is “demonstrably unfit” given the circumstances of what Maligaspe did to the victim.
“This was non-consensual sexual intercourse, committed by an individual in a position of trust — and a unique position of trust — acting as a father figure,” Ainslie said.
“The violation to the complainant’s dignity and the harmfulness of the conduct is the same.”
Ainslie focused much of her argument on one specific instance of sexual assault — when Maligaspe found the victim unconscious in bed, having attempted suicide by ingesting pills. Instead of helping her, he raped her.
“He was able to thrive in the community while she, on the other hand, was struggling constantly and overwhelmingly with what had happened to her,” she said.
Ainslie said Crown is looking for a sentence in the 6.5-year range.
Defence lawyer Eric Purtzki, meanwhile, asked the three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel to leave the sentence as is.
“It is my submission that the trial judge considered all the factors — she did not err in principle,” he said. “In the end result here there is no error in principle.”
During sentencing submissions after Maligaspe’s trial, prosecutors were seeking eight years in prison while defence lawyers sought a term shorter than two years.
Maligaspe is a former instructor in Thompson Rivers University’s nursing school. He was working at the university during the period when the offences were committed, and jurors heard during trial the victim enrolled in nursing classes at University College of the Cariboo — now TRU — when she arrived in Canada.
Complainants in sexual assault cases typically cannot be named because their identities are protected by court-ordered publication bans. In this case, Dinushini Maligaspe applied successfully ahead of the trial to have the ban lifted.
The Crown is asking the court to hear its appeal. Lawyers were told to return to court on Thursday for a decision.
Maligaspe, who is serving his 3.5-year sentence in a federal penitentiary, was not present for Monday’s hearing.