Former Fort St. James fire chief Robert Bennett, 51, has been sentenced to nine months in jail and two years of probation on three counts of sexual assault.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett handed down the sentence on April 23, in Prince George after Bennett was found guilty on all three counts of sexual assault against three female volunteer firefighters earlier this year.
Bennett was also assessed a victim surcharge of $200 and was given a mandatory 10-year prohibition from possessing firearms. Bennett was also ordered to provide a DNA sample.
Kirstin Rudolph, one of the first members to come forward against Bennett, was in Prince George Supreme Court for the sentencing.
“We’re happy that he’s going to jail,” she said. “The judge did a good job in sending the message that this was a criminal action and punishing him accordingly.”
The sexual assault case has been emotional for the community and put strains on relationships Rudolph said.
“It really has divided the town,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s the way it’s been.”
Of the three volunteers that came forward from the department only one remains active as a volunteer firefighter.
“I retired in November, and Lisa has just got her letter,” she said. “In the fire department you need to trust people you work with and I just didn’t feel I could trust them.”
There is a civil lawsuit that is being continued by the three members against the District of Fort St. James.
“Right now it’s just a waiting game,” Rudolph said of the pending civil case.
Bennett’s family did not respond to requests for comment on the sentencing prior to going to press.