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The former mayor of Burns Lake, Luke Strimbold, elected at the age of 21 back in 2011, has pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault involving four boys who were under 16.
Following an appearance in the B.C. Supreme Court in Smithers, Stimbold’s lawyer Stanley Tessmer said that Strimbold is very remorseful and is a good person who has made some grave mistakes.
“He wants these boys not to feel guilty about what happened, and for them to know it’s not their fault,” Tessmer said. “This is the time for the cycle of abuse to end and the healing to begin.”
A total of 29 charges were approved by a special prosecutor against Strimbold, including sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. These charges are alleged to have involved six people all under the age of 16.
The charges Strimbold pleaded guilty to took place between May 2014 and September 2017. The names of the minors involved cannot be published because of a publication ban.
A psychological and pre-sentencing report have been ordered as Strimbold’s sentencing hearing is likely to take place on September 23.
Tessmer expects the defence and the Crown to put forward separate submissions for sentencing, rather than make a joint request. He also added that he expects the remaining 25 charges will be stayed until after sentencing.
The charges shocked the small, rural town of Burns Lake, where Strimbold served as mayor from 2011 to 2016. Last year, the former chief of nearby Lake Babine First Nation said his community was angry and disheartened.
“When I first heard about it, I was very, very upset,” said Wilf Adam. He added that the mayor left “quite abruptly” and that they haven’t spoken since.
Strimbold stepped down as mayor in 2016 to further his education and spend more time with his family.
Previous to this, Strimbold helped the community recover from a deadly sawmill explosion and fire in 2012 which killed two people and injured 19 others.
The following year he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his community service. In 2014 he was named by BC Business as one of the top 30 leaders under the age of 30 in the province.
When the charges were first filed against Stimbold in February 2018, he was the membership chair for the B.C. Liberal Party. Party officials became aware of the charges the next month and he resigned from the party at that time.
A special prosecutor was appointed in the case because Strimbold was a former elected official with “significant connections” to the B.C. Liberal Party, the B.C. Prosecution Service said in March 2018.