A 44-year-old man who made sexual comments to a teenage girl on Facebook has avoided jail time.
Oral Mark Small of Mount Pearl was given an 18-month conditional sentence, with two years’ probation, in provincial court in St. John’s Friday. The 44-year-old pleaded guilty to unlawfully luring a child (younger than 16) by means of a computer system. The Crown agreed to withdraw charges of sexual interference and sexual assault in exchange for the guilty plea.
Small was charged as a result of an online conversation he had with a 15-year-old girl from the Burin Peninsula. The Facebook messages to her were about sex and alcohol use.
It was brought to the attention of the RCMP Burin detachment after the girl’s boyfriend logged into her account and saw the conversation.
Police examined the Facebook account. According to the facts of the case read in court, Facebook refused to provide Small’s account records.
When questioned by officers, Small admitted he had messaged the girl when he was under the influence of alcohol. He said it was poor judgment on his part and that at the time, he was depressed, as he and his wife had split. He apologized for what he did and said he was embarrassed and had never done anything like that before.
In rendering his decision on sentencing, Judge Colin Flynn went along with an agreed recommendation from prosecutor Allison Manning of Marystown and Montreal defence lawyer Eric Sutton.
Manning said the decision was made after extensive discussions about his client and the incident.
“The conversation was not explicitly sexual, as a lot of these are, and there were no photographs exchanged,” she told the judge.
She said Small pleaded guilty, was remorseful and was deemed a low risk to reoffend.
“It was a one-time incident,” she said.
Sutton agreed that while the sentence may seem low, “the facts of this case are not near as serious as some others.” He presented a psychologist’s report on Short to the court, noting that his client was co-operative with police and did not pose a danger to the community.
Small avoided prison time because he committed the crime just months before the law changed.
In August 2012, legislation was amended to state that the mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who commits the crime is now 90 days in jail.
As part of Short’s sentence, he must abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs and was ordered to have no contact with the girl. He’s also banned from having any Internet communication with anyone younger than 16. His name will also be listed on Canada’s sex offender’s registry for the next 10 years.