A former Pictou County school teacher found guilty of sex crimes will not serve any jail time.
Three years after the incidents, Carolyn Amy Hood was sentenced last Wednesday morning for sex crimes with former students.
About a year after her trial, which took place last November, Hood was found guilty of two counts of luring, one count of sexual exploitation and one count of touching for sexual purpose after having contact via text message and Snapchat as well as some physical contact with underage former students of hers.
Judge Del Atwood, who presides over Pictou Provincial Court, read a lengthy statement at the sentencing which included his decision as to how he came to the sentence. In all, Hood was given a year of house arrest, 15 months of conditional sentence order, which includes limitations such as needing someone to supervise her computer use, not being allowed in public parks, swimming pools or other places children may gather and not being in the company of a minor without the parent or guardian present. She was also given 24 successive months of probation as well as a DNA order and $800 in fines.
During his lengthy written decision, Atwood noted several factors and cases that led him to the decision he made.
“It must be more than merely excessive,” he said about the defence’s challenge of the constitutional minimum for such crimes.
He noted that although every case of these circumstances would constitute the mandatory minimum as excessive, that it should be looked at on a case by case basis.
“I must not lose sight of the fact that the victims in this case were minors,” the judge said, adding that it was an aggravating circumstance that she was in a position of trust with the children when she abused that trust.
Atwood then summarized the facts of the case, giving it a timeline and noting details like when she began sending photos and messages as well as when she had oral sex with one former student in her car.
“Any form of sexual abuse is serious,” Atwood said. “Their participating is not a mitigating factor.”
He noted that he found her mental state at the time to lead her into acting with reckless abandon and said that he believes, with notes from a report written to aid his sentencing, that Hood is at a low risk to re-offend.
“I find that I am persuaded by the report of Dr. Connors (who wrote the court-issued report) that Mrs. Hood suffered from bipolar, (disorder),” he said, adding that it was not clear to him that Hood was trying to groom the students and that he also believes that her actions were likely more a result of “spontaneous opportunity.”
The effect of the media attention on Hood and the case was also taken into account when the judge was making his decision, as well as social media attention and groups on social media related to the case.
Atwood also mentioned that the fact that most of the contact with one exception was distant, which was also a factor in his decision.
“Mrs. Hood would be an excellent candidate for a community-based sentence,” Atwood said.
“A conditional sentence is not a get out of jail free order,” Atwood cautioned Hood.
“I don’t want you to be left with the impression that the court has given you a break or because of the season.”