The owner of a downtown Nanaimo restaurant has been handed a nine-month jail sentence for an incident involving sex with a minor.
Talal El Bakkar, 66, pleaded guilty to sexual interference of a person under 16 in provincial court in Nanaimo on Friday. Judge Douglas Cowling sentenced El Bakkar to prison time to be served on weekends, as well as a three-year probation order.
The identity of the minor, as well as some of the circumstances, are protected, but during sentencing, it was revealed the incident occurred in June 2015 after the girl had texted Bakkar, telling him she had been at a party and drinking and requested a ride home. It was decided she would spend the night at Bakkar’s residence. The two engaged in sexual intercourse. The victim was 15 years old at the time, but El Bakkar claimed she had said she was 19 years old, something Leanne Mascolo, Crown counsel, said the victim had denied.
El Bakkar didn’t have a previous criminal record and during sentencing, Michael Ritzker, defence counsel, said that his client had been subject to attacks mounted against his client by “self-righteous social justice warriors” through social media and vandalism to his property. He was attacked by a person wielding a knife outside his restaurant, Aladdin’s Café, but wasn’t harmed, and businesses cancelled contracts with the café.
A pre-sentence report detailed how El Bakkar had suffered a number of head injuries, including an incident in January 2004, when he was found lying on the ground, bleeding and unconscious. According to the pre-sentence report, family members said that El Bakkar’s behaviour changed after this;he was described as a shell of his former self, has a temper sometimes and rambles.
Ritzker said his client was ashamed, and submitted letters and called on witnesses to speak in favour of El Bakkar. Long-time Nanaimo resident Mike Gogo, who has known El Bakkar for 20 years, said he couldn’t speak to the offences, but told Cowling of numerous instances of El Bakkar’s generosity, including an instance when he gave food to a person who had been searching in the restaurant’s dumpster.
Ritzker also pointed out that El Bakkar has been on probation for the past three years and has abided by the rules.
As part of El Bakkar’s probation, he may not hire people under 16 years of age to work at his restaurant. He can’t be in the presence of someone 16 years old or under unless they are in the presence of a parent or it is incidentally at his business. He may not take a paid or volunteer position where he is in a position of trust with people under 16 years of age. He must not have any contact with the victim. He will also be required to be registered on the national sexual offender registry for 10 years and must follow a curfew order (between 9:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.) for nine months.
Mascolo said the victim didn’t respond to messages, take part in the pre-sentence report, nor provide a victim impact statement.