A convicted sex offender may have been watching children near a daycare, but he wasn’t close enough to have broken the law.
That was the decision made at St. John’s provincial judge Friday in the case of John Ernest Jacobs.
John Ernest Jacobs speaks with his lawyer Tammy Drover before the verdict in his case was delivered Thursday at provincial court in St. John’s.
— Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Judge Jim Walsh found Jacobs not guilty of loitering around the daycare and breaching court orders to stay away from areas where children younger than 14 may frequent. A charge of vagrancy was withdrawn by the Crown.
The 44-year-old had been on strict court orders after he was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail last year for breaching those same orders in December 2012. At the time, he was seen several times peering into the windows of a house where a five-year-old girl lived. He was also seen watching children toboggan at a hill on Empire Avenue in St. John’s, near the Elks Club.
When Jacobs was released from jail after serving his term on those charges, police had surveillance on him.
In June last year, officers saw him walking back and forth in front of a daycare and school in Torbay. Officers had testified in Jacobs’ trial last month that Jacobs’ eyes were focused on the children in the playground and he was seen rubbing his genital area a few times as he watched them.
Walsh said while Jacobs’ actions were disturbing, because Jacobs was across the street and not on the daycare or school property, it doesn’t constitute the charge of “attending at” a daycare or playground.
“You were 50 feet from being found guilty,” Walsh said to Jacobs.
The judge also pointed out that there had been no complaints from anyone at the daycare and that no one had reported seeing him except officers.
However, Jacobs was convicted of making harassing phone calls.
In April last year, he randomly called a number from the phone book and reached a residence in Conception Bay South. A young boy answered and Jacobs asked to speak with his five-year-old sister. Jacobs had heard a male voice calling the girl’s name in the background and then asked the boy who she was.
Walsh sentenced Jacobs to six months in jail. But it’s considered time served, since Jacobs has been in jail for almost seven months.
He will now serve two years’ probation, with conditions that he have no contact with the family he called.
Jacobs has an extensive criminal record. It includes a conviction for invitation to sexual touching involving a child in March 2009. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for that offence, along with breaching court orders.
His record also includes convictions for such crimes as assault, performing indecent acts, 15 counts of making harassing phone calls and 21 convictions for breaching court orders.
He had just been released from Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick in March 2011.
Police said that when Jacobs was arrested and moved back to this province, officers notified daycare administrators, who issued letters to parents.
Police said it caused concern among parents of children in the community.
Walsh told Jacobs that even though he acquitted him of the first charge, “you clearly have issues that need to be addressed.”
Jacobs agreed to seek treatment and to work with his probation officer to participate in counselling programs.