A former Nova Scotia teacher with bipolar disorder who sexually abused one teenage male student and sent sexually explicit texts to another has been sentenced to 15 months of house arrest by a judge who said the mandatory minimum of one year in jail was too harsh.
Judge Del Atwood told court Wednesday that a one-year jail term would be “grossly disproportionate” to the crimes committed by Carolyn Amy Hood of Stellarton, N.S., defence lawyer Joel Pink said outside court.
“When he said it was grossly disproportionate, he was saying that the minimum sentence was unconstitutional,” Pink said, referring to a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
Atwood said only one incident involved Hood performing a sex act on a Grade 9 student in Pictou County, while her interaction with a Grade 11 student involved no physical contact.
As well, Hood’s bipolar disorder was a factor in determining her sentence, which includes 24 months of probation and automatic inclusion on the national sex offenders registry, Pink added, noting the judge decided Hood had acted on spontaneous opportunities rather than through calculated actions.
Hood was also ordered not to attend any place frequented by children for the next 10 years unless accompanied by an adult.
She was found guilty in April of sexual interference, sexual exploitation and two counts of luring minors over the Internet for a sexual purpose.
In October, the 40-year-old woman issued a public apology in a provincial courtroom in Pictou, N.S., saying her “deceitful actions” in 2013 betrayed the students’ trust and caused pain and trauma for their families.
At the time, Hood read a statement in Pictou provincial court, saying she was motivated by mental illness.
“I truly believe in my heart that without the onset of bipolar disorder, none of these events would have ever occurred,” she told the judge.
“I want to reiterate my deep and immeasurable remorse for my actions that led to these charges … It is something I will feel regret for every day for the rest of my life.”
In her statement, Hood said she was taking medication and attending psychiatric sessions to deal with her mental illness.
The charges stem from offences in 2013 involving two of her former students at Thorburn Consolidated School, who were 15 and 17 at the time.
The former Grade 6 teacher had previously taught both boys.
She was charged with six offences in January 2014, but one count each of sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching were later dismissed.
Earlier in the trial, Pink argued that his client — diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 — should be declared not criminally responsible due to mental illness, but Atwood rejected that argument.
Pink had argued the proper range of sentencing should be between three and nine months.
However, Crown prosecutor Bill Gorman said the judge should impose a four-year prison term, given the fact that the victims were under 18 and Hood had exploited her position of trust.
Pink said his client has yet to decide whether to seek an appeal.