Former Coquitlam substitute teacher Aleksandr Plehanov was sentenced to six months in jail after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl in 2013.
In the reasons for sentence released last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Murray Blok said because the conviction concerned the abuse of a child, a custodial sentence was necessary.
He noted that Plehanov, who had been acquitted on similar charges involving five Tri-City elementary students just five months before the 2013 incident, did not appear to take responsibility for his actions.
“Mr. Plehanov was in a position of limited trust but a position of trust nonetheless,” Blok said. “The victim was very young and vulnerable, and his insight into and understanding of his offending seems very limited.”
During the 2016 trial, the court heard that Plehanov was with a friend and his family in Surrey on Easter Sunday in 2013 when the victim fell as she reached for some candy. As Plehanov caught her, he touched her pelvic area and buttocks and put his hand inside the front of her waistband.
Crown counsel argued the touching was not an unintended outcome of saving the girl from the fall while the defence acknowledged the touching occurred but said it was not for a sexual purpose.
At sentencing, Blok weighed the findings of two psychiatrists, Alexander Levin and Randall Kropp. Levin, who has been treating Plehanov since 2010, said while the 43-year-old did minimize his actions, it was not “extreme, and is not such that it would significantly affect his future risk of reoffending.”
But in deciding on a sentence, Blok sided with Kropp’s assessment, which stated that Plehanov was a moderate risk to re-offend. Kropp noted that Plehanov still denies intending to touch the victim in a sexual way and has blamed the child’s father for overreacting to the situation.
“Dr. Kropp reported that Mr. Plehanov does not view himself as a sex offender and does not believe he needs to attend a sex offender treatment program,” Blok wrote in his reasons for sentence. “He denied having any interest in prepubescent children.”
Crown counsel had called for a sentence of 12 to 15 months, plus three years probation and a five-year prohibition from attending any location where children might be present. The defence stated that a two-year suspended sentence with strict conditions was more appropriate.
The 2013 incident was not the first time Plehanov has been accused of inappropriately touching young girls.
In 2010, he was charged with 10 counts of sexual interference of a person under 16 and sexual assault involving five girls in the Tri-Cities between the ages of seven and eight when he was a substitute teacher. He was also charged with criminal harassment in the matter, when he was allegedly spotted in his car outside the home of one of the girls.
After a two-week trial in the fall of 2012, Judge David St. Pierre acquitted Plehanov on all counts, stating that the Crown had not proven that Plehanov was anything but a teacher who didn’t grasp the boundaries of student-teacher relationships.
During the first trial, the court heard that Plehanov had been warned several times by colleagues that some of the contact he had with children was inappropriate. But St. Pierre said Crown did not prove whether the contact was incidental or criminal.
Plehanov’s teaching licence was suspended in 2010 and revoked in 2014.
But while Blok acknowledged the prior charges in his reasons for sentence, he stated that they did not play a role in his sentencing decision and noted that Plehanov does not have a criminal record.
On top of his six-month sentence, Plehanov will receive 24 months of probation with strict terms, including not having any contact with the victim or her family, and not attending any location where the family and victim may be present.
He is also prohibited from going to a park, community centre, swimming pool or anywhere where children under 16 years of age are present, and he is not allowed to interact with anyone under 16 years of age unless accompanied by an approved adult or his probation officer. If Plehanov wishes to attend a place of worship, he must also advise his probation officer.