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ail time for Ottawa chocolatier who sexually assaulted teenage employee

An Ottawa chocolate shop owner who forced himself on a teen employee — kissing, hugging and holding her without consent —  will serve four months in jail for his crimes.

Omar Fares, who repeatedly found ways to sexualize his workplace encounters with his teen victim, was sentenced to jail time and three years of probation Friday for the sexual assault. The assault occurred in March 2016, while the high-school employee, then 17, was working at Fares’s Wellington West café, A Thing for Chocolate.

He was convicted in July of this year.

Ontario Court Justice Mitchell Hoffman said while the offences — non-consensual holding and kissing — are on the lower end of the range of severity seen in sexual assault, predatory behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

Almost immediately after hiring her, Fares began acting inappropriately, focusing on the girl’s clothing and telling her he was sexually attracted to her. He was 36 at the time and she told others she was frightened by the advances of a man old enough to be her father.

Hoffman said Fares took advantage of his position of authority over the girl. Fares sexualized their workplace encounters whenever he thought he could get away with it.

Hoffman rejected defence arguments for a conditional discharge, a suspended sentence and a conditional jail sentence, and opted instead to slap Fares with jail time, ruling that it would send the wrong message to victims and offenders if a discharge were granted.

Hoffman took into account the impact on the girl, and that Fares was in a position of power over her as her employer. He took advantage of a teen just looking to make some money at a summer job.

Blair Crew, a criminal defence lawyer and part-time criminal law professor at the University of Ottawa, said that he is surprised that Fares was given jail time for the assault. Fares has no criminal record and this is the first time he was charged with offences of a sexual nature. While the offence might be on the lower end of the sexual assault spectrum, Crew said, Fares abused a person under the age of 18, he was in a position of trust and authority and there was significant impact on the victim — all aggravating factors in the judge’s eyes.

That the judge made mention that predatory behaviour will no longer be tolerated, to Crew, “invokes the image of the sexual harassment climate that we’re dealing in.”

In Ottawa, employees have been speaking out about sexual harassment at the hands of a prominent restaurant owner who admitted to his conduct, and around the globe, men in power in the entertainment industry are being called out by men and women alleging years of rampant sexual harassment and sexual assault. Widespread conversations about unwanted sexual attention, especially in the workplace, are occurring.

Fares will be a registered sex offender and will provide a sample of his DNA. Fares is also banned from contacting the victim or her family and must attend counselling.

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