For years, Robin Barrett stood in front of the church altar as his community’s religious leader.
For at least two of those years, he also sat in front of a computer ogling children being forced to perform sexually explicit acts.
The images showed children being subjected to everything from forced anal penetration and fellatio to acts involving bestiality, torture and degradation.
Some of the children were as young as six months old.
In all, the former Anglican priest had 31,460 pictures and 3,451 videos, which included audio.
In provincial court in St. John’s Friday afternoon, Barrett was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail.
The 51-year-old pleaded guilty to possessing and unlawfully distributing child pornography.
Before Judge David Power rendered his decision, Barrett stood and apologized to everyone who was affected by his actions.
“First, I would like to apologize to the court because I do recognize what I did was cruel,” Barrett said, after drinking water to clear his throat.
“I would also like to apologize to the children in the (pictures and) videos. I was victimizing these children again.”
Barrett also apologized to his family for the “shame and harm” he caused them, to his friends for breaking their trust, his church family for putting “a bad light on the gospel” and to his colleagues, for casting the clergy in a bad light.
Barrett gathered his extensive child porn collection between June 1, 2007, and Nov. 25, 2009.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary arrested him Dec. 8, 2009 at his home in Conception Bay South and seized his computer.
In his report, Const. Ed Billard of the RNC’s Child Exploitation Unit said he extracted the files from Barrett’s computer and spent 279 hours over the next 13 months categorizing the images and videos.
“An alarming number of the files … contain horrific images and videos (audio included) of children being sexually assaulted by adult males …,” wrote Billard, whose report detailed the disturbing acts the material showed.
“The numbers so far clearly show that Robin Barrett is a prolific collector of child sexual abuse images.”
But the RNC wasn’t the only police agency watching Barrett.
A month after Barrett was arrested, Billard received a report from the Ottawa Police Service’s Internet child exploitation unit, informing him that a suspect from the RNC jurisdiction had been using the Internet pseudonym “email@example.com” and had been trading child porn on the Internet.
According to Billard’s report, when the Ottawa Police Service investigators forwarded its report to the RNC, they didn’t know “firstname.lastname@example.org” was Barrett or that he had already been arrested.
After his arrest, Barrett was quickly removed from his position as the rector of the Goulds parish.
Before Barrett was led away in handcuffs Friday, he had been free on bail since shortly after his arrest and was living with his parents in Conception Bay North.
His parents were not in court Friday.
The 2 1/2-year sentence was in keeping with an agreement between Crown prosecutor Robin Fowler and defence counsel Doug Moores.
Fowler acknowledged there was no direct evidence to indicate Barrett was a danger to children.
“Everything has been online,” Fowler said.
Moores pointed out Barrett’s life “has taken a downward shift” since his arrest.
However, he said his client has taken steps to get counselling for his behaviour.
A detailed report from his therapist indicated Barrett was a low risk to reoffend.
“His career is gone and he’s caused a lot of difficulty for him and his family,” Moores said. “But he realizes there’s a need for a period of incarceration and that he needs to continue treatment.
“He is not likely to come before the courts ever again.”
Barrett’s sentence included a forfeiture order of all material on his computer, and his name will be placed on the National Sex Registry for the next 20 years.