Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.
A former Niagara police officer who admitted to sexually assaulting 11 women in his side massage business will serve an 18-month sentence at home.
David Kukoly, 54, who was a veteran officer at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault. He admitted to similar abuse against six other victims in an agreed statement of facts. He was sentenced June 21 at the Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Kukoly was not a registered massage therapist, but still operated his “Massage by Dave” business from his home in Port Colborne under a different last name.
Under the premise of providing massages, he inappropriately touched 11 women without their consent between 2016 and 2018, Judge Richard Blouin wrote in his sentencing decision.
Judge Blouin described some of the assaults as “heart-wrenching” and in an “isolated, locked room” with “significant impact on the psychological health” of the victims, but ruled against the Crown’s request for a four-year sentence. years in prison.
Instead, the judge said, a year and a half of house arrest was appropriate given his “long record of service to the community” as a police officer for more than 28 years, and because he “stepped up” and pleaded guilty. . His admission of guilt avoided a trial and the victims had to relive their crimes in court.
Judge concerned about the safety of defendants in jail
Still, Kukoly’s sentence is “incredible” and “devastating” for victims of sexual assault, said Brock University professor Robyn Bourgeois, an expert on gender-based violence and a survivor of sex trafficking.
She said it is “disturbing” that more weight has not been given to the lasting psychological damage victims experience.
“These are the cases that drive sexual violence in this country,” Bourgeois said. “Survivors are unlikely to come forward because the law failed to take their trauma seriously, meaning perpetrators evade capture and continue to sexually abuse people.”
Judge Blouin also wrote in his decision that house arrest will ensure that Kukoly can take care of his high blood pressure and his stepchildren, and avoid being harmed in prison.
“He would be an obvious target for some other inmates who don’t consider police officers their friends,” Blouin wrote. “From my point of view, the potential risk of harm, perhaps serious harm, is obvious.”
Sexual assault ‘changes lives’ for survivors
Nicole Pietsch, an advocate for the Ontario Rape Crisis Centers Coalition, said this decision suggests preferential treatment for police officers and that Kukoly should have considered the risks of incarceration when he sexually assaulted his clients.
“If a real masseur had done the same thing, maybe that person would have gone to prison,” Pietsch said.
In Canada, 12 percent of sexual assaults reported to the police lead to a criminal conviction and 7 percent to a custodial sentence, according to Statistics Canada.
“This can leave a really negative impression on survivors who choose to go through the criminal justice system because they feel they may not get the results they want,” Pietsch said.
“And for survivors, it can be truly life-changing to be sexually assaulted, particularly by someone who is in a position of trust.”
Niagara Police Chief Bryan MacCulloch said in a statement that he is aware of Kukoly’s sentence, but as the case is still within the deadline for a potential appeal, “it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
He did not respond to CBC Hamilton’s question about when Kukoly was discharged from the service, but said it is important to note that he is no longer a police officer.
The Ministry of the Attorney General did not provide a comment on whether the Crown will appeal the sentencing decision.
Kukoly’s defense attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence, you can find support here.