Court rejects former Esgenoôpetitj chief's appeal of sexual assault convictions

·1 min read
Wilbur Dedam, right, leaves the Miramichi courthouse last May with his lawyer T.J. Burke.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Wilbur Dedam, right, leaves the Miramichi courthouse last May with his lawyer T.J. Burke. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam of his four sexual assault convictions from a trial two years ago.

But the court reduced Dedam's prison sentence to nine years from 10.

In the fall of 2020, Dedam, then 67, was found guilty on four of six charges of sexual assault. A court found he sexually assaulted or touched three girls between 1977 and 1985.

Dedam wanted the higher court to quash the convictions or order a new trial, and he also appealed his sentence.

Dedam's lawyer argued that Court of Queen's Bench Justice Thomas Christie erred in dealing with inconsistencies in testimony of one of the victims, that the verdict was unreasonable and the sentence excessive.

But Justice Kathleen Quigg of the Appeal Court said Christie took the correct approach in terms of accepting evidence, so the convictions would stand.

Quigg found an error was made, however, when the sentence was increased from Dedam's first sexual assault trial, in 2016, despite no presentation of new evidence or aggravating facts.

After his first trial, Dedam was sentenced to nine years in prison on six counts of sexual assault. The Appeal Court set aside the convictions and ordered a new trial. At the second trial, he was found guilty on four counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"In my opinion, a sentence of nine years for sexual assaults against children is a fit sentence," Quigg said in her decision. "Mr. Dedam committed multiple sexual assaults over a lengthy period and caused much harm to the children in question."

Dedam has been ordered to surrender to correctional authorities.