—Saint John, N.B.
Convicted child abuser Donnie Snook’s sentencing date has been set for Aug. 29. The proceedings may continue into the morning of Aug. 30 if necessary, Judge Alfred Brien said in provincial court Tuesday. Snook, 41, will be sentenced on 46 charges of child sex abuse spanning the last 12 years.
Dressed in a grey sweatsuit and wearing glasses, the former Saint John city councillor and youth ministry leader sat expressionless Tuesday morning waiting for the proceedings to begin in the new provincial courthouse at Peel Plaza. Every so often he closed his eyes and lowered his head.
Brien said he set the sentencing date “with a bit of reluctance.” Officials only recently found an expert to perform a sex offender assessment on Snook, which must be complete by the time he is sentenced.
Brien said he was concerned because, under the Criminal Code, individuals should be sentenced as soon as possible after admission of guilt. Snook pleaded guilty on May 29.
Crown prosecutor Derek Weaver said Dr. Mary Ann Campbell would take about 50 hours over 10 weeks to complete the assessment, which would offer a diagnosis on pedophilia and Snook’s propensity to reoffend.
Defence lawyer Dennis Boyle asked for a shorter timeline.
“Five hours a week seems to be a little amount when my client is sitting on remand,” he said.
Boyle said “the odd thing” about the report is it would outline Snook’s propensity to reoffend before he receives any treatment in a facility after sentencing.
Still, the Crown and the judge insisted it would be necessary to get the report before Snook is sentenced.
Brien also asked to ensure victim impact statements and the facts are ready for the end of August.
“I’m anticipating the Crown and defence will be well prepared. The Crown should have synopsis in the court in written form. There are a lot of ways to expedite matters without cutting corners,” he said.
Boyle said Snook appeared in person, rather than by video link, because he had a meeting with probation services as part of the pre-sentence report.
He added that it was his understanding that the police investigation was complete.
“It’s a matter of arranging charges and having disclosure,” he said.
Outside of court, Boyle said he did not know whether further charges would come on the sentencing date.
Insp. Glen McCloskey of the Saint John Police Force said the investigation is ongoing and will be for some time. Police continue to look into further complaints of abuse, he said.
Judith Meinert-Thomas, a former board member of the Inner City Youth Ministry, which employed Snook, was one of a handful of people who attended the brief court hearing on Tuesday.
“He just seemed to have this side where he did so much good for the city, he was obviously popular, and everywhere he went, it was ‘Hi Donnie, Hi Donnie,’ ” she said.
“You think you know somebody and there’s a lot of compartmentalizing going on with some people, and that’s exactly what we saw with Donnie Snook.”
Meinert-Thomas said she believed the Chicken Noodle Club, which Snook directed, should be renamed.
“I think it carries a certain amount of stigma – not because of who ran it, not because of the volunteers, not because of the Anglican Church – but just because of what happened to one person.”
Snook was arrested at his east Saint John home on Jan. 9 on eight charges, including making and distributing child pornography. The former foster parent resigned from his political post from jail and was later fired by the Inner City Youth Ministry.
In May, the Crown brought forward a slew of new charges involving 17 male children. Snook admitted his guilt on all counts.
Snook also faces four additional child sex abuse charges in his native Newfoundland. He has not yet entered a plea on those charges, which date back to his time as a Salvation Army minister in Mount Moriah, near Corner Brook, in the mid-1990s.