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Driver of vehicle in assault on girl receives 18-month conditional sentence

Yarmouth Justice Centre. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Yarmouth Justice Centre. TINA COMEAU PHOTO - Tina Comeau

Judge Claudine MacDonald says there’s little doubt what it was like for a Yarmouth teenager this past winter who was beaten and tortured after being picked up by a friend and attacked by others inside the vehicle. Still, she told the driver of the car, “Put yourself in her position and imagine for a moment what it must have been like for her – terrifying, absolutely terrifying.”

Ashley Comeau, 20, (a friend of the victim) was sentenced in Yarmouth provincial court recently after pleading guilty to conspiracy and unlawful confinement. The judge followed a joint recommendation by Crown and defence lawyers, handing her an 18-month conditional sentence to be served at home, followed by a 12 months of probation.

On Jan. 4, Comeau picked up a 17-year-old Yarmouth girl. When the teen – whose identity is banned from publication – got into the car, she didn’t know others were inside. Over the course of several hours the girl was assaulted, threatened and tortured while she was taken to multiple locations around Yarmouth County. Her attackers ripped off her gel nails, taking some of her real fingernails with them.

When she finally escaped the car, the victim was pulled by her hair as efforts to prevent her from escaping continued.

“At this point in time Ms. Comeau had intervened and screamed at the others to let her go,” Crown attorney Marc Njoh said. “I think that is the only time, based on the facts, Ms. Comeau had intervened.”

At hospital the victim’s face was so swollen her family barely recognized her.

Comeau was 19 at the time of the offence. She did not assault the victim, the court heard. “In fact, the victim says that you didn’t, and that’s important,” the judge said,

But that doesn’t exonerate the accused, MacDonald said. “The fact that you were driving the vehicle … that enabled the assaults to continue.… You were important in terms of the commission of this serious offence.”

Comeau’s conditional sentence does allow her to be away from home in cases of medical appointments and emergencies, lawyer and court appointments, and for educational or employment purposes. The judge ordered her not to contact the victim or any of the co-accused.

She now attends community college outside of Yarmouth. Her lawyer Wayne Rideout said not only has Comeau moved away, but she has no plans to return to Yarmouth.

The judge warned Comeau not to take her conditional sentence lightly.

“You break one condition – one condition of this conditional sentence order – and you be ready to go to jail,” MacDonald said. “I don’t want you walking out of here thinking, oh well, it’s just a piece of paper. . . It’s not like probation.”

Victim impact statements were read in court by the victim’s aunt and grandmother. They described the devastating impact this crime has had physically and mentally on the girl and her family.

In her statement the victim said her life was changed catastrophically that night, leaving her paralyzed with fear and suffering from anxiety attacks. She experiences significant trust issues, was left scared to get inside vehicles and scared for her family who had received threats. At times the impact of that night is so overwhelming it makes her feel as if she is suffocating. She still doesn’t understand why this was done to her, or even how people can do such a thing to others.

There was no motivation for the attack offered during the sentencing.

Comeau told the court she was sorry, acknowledging an apology can’t change what happened.

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