Nearly a year after former Pictou County school teacher Carolyn Amy Hood was tried and found guilty of sex crimes against children, she has yet to be sentenced. This was to have taken place in Pictou Provincial Court on Thursday, but after hearing the submissions from Crown and defence council, Judge Del Atwood withheld his decision until December 14.
Hood was found guilty of one count of sexual assault, sexual interference and two counts of luring after a two-week trial which spanned from October 19 to 30, 2015. During the time of the decision, later breach charges that were added after the initial ones, were stayed, meaning that the case on those charges will not be continued but it is possible for them to resurface later on.
During Thursday’s hearing, a constitutional issue that had been earlier brought forth was mentioned. The issue in question was whether, because of a mental impairment, the mandatory minimum of one-year incarceration per charge would be cruel and unusual punishment for the accused.
To attest to the negative impact that a term of incarceration could have on a mentally ill person, Dr. Theresa Vienneau, Hood’s psychiatrist, took the stand as a witness.
“The presence of mania or hypo mania compromises judgment in many ways,” said Vienneau. “I feel none of this would have happened without the presence of bipolar (disorder).”
Vienneau also added that “it is safe to assume that that would be extremely detrimental to her mental health.”
Crown Attorney Bill Gorman began his cross examination of Vienneau by noting that Hood, while in the care of psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Hucker and Dr. Vienneau, was continuing her illegal behaviour.
Gorman followed this up by asking how Hood would be considered by doctors to be in a state that her judgment is impaired but not impaired enough that she wouldn’t have cared who found out, rather than hiding and denying claims of impropriety, as she did.
Vienneau later responded that, in her experience, that would not be unusual.
“(Those who suffer from bipolar disorder) are able to somehow keep some aspect of their life together,” she said, further explaining that she usually only sees a patient for about an hour at a time and they may not exhibit manic symptoms at the time.
Beginning in his sentence recommendation, the Gorman noted that Hood was in a position of trust and had broken that.
“It is up to that adult to set these boundaries,” Gorman said. “What Amy Hood did was wrong, both morally and by law, as found by your honour.”
He said that a clear message has to be sent.
Gorman recommended a sentence of four years’ incarceration for Hood – one year for each charge. This would count as the current mandatory minimum for these charges.
Joel Pink, the defence attorney, had a different sentence recommendation.
“This is not the usual case of a teacher having sex with a student. We are dealing with a person who has a mental illness,” said Pink. “Severe punishment is less appropriate for offenders with mental illness.”
Pink also noted that the vast amount of publicity, public controversy as well as the articles and photos published in Frank Magazine also should be factored into the decision as they have also had an impact on Hood.
He recommended a one-year conditional sentence or house arrest for each of the four charges as well as probation after the fact if the constitutional minimum is found cruel and unusual. If the constitutional challenge is struck down, Pink proposed the mandatory minimum of one year of incarceration for each of the four charges she faces.
In Hood’s statement of the impact, she said she regrets her actions.
“As a role model… I betrayed their trust,” she said. “There is not an hour I am not thinking about the impact.”
She went on to say that she worries how the victims are coping with the incident.
“During such a formative time in their lives they should not have had to deal with these circumstances,” she said.
Hood also addressed the parents of the victims apologetically and told them there is nothing that they could have done to prevent this from happening.
“I’m doing everything in my power to address my mental illness head on,” she continued. “The core of my commitment stems from my three children.”
“It is something I will feel regret for every day for the rest of my life.”
Judge Del Atwood will deliver his decision on December 14.