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Dartmouth judge sentences New Brunswick man on child pornography charges

Patrick Kinsley Knowles is shown at Halifax provincial court in December 2015, after he was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault involving a child. ERIC WYNNE • FILE
Patrick Kingsley Knowles, shown at court in December 2015, was sentenced Tuesday in Dartmouth provincial court to two and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography. - Eric Wynne

A New Brunswick man who says he’s trying to get help in prison for his sexual desires about children has been sentenced by a Nova Scotia judge to an additional 2.5 years in custody.

Patrick Kingsley Knowles, 40, of Saint John pleaded guilty in Dartmouth provincial court Tuesday to charges of possessing and distributing child pornography.

The offences were committed last June, while Knowles was living at a hotel in Dartmouth after getting his statutory release from Dorchester Penitentary, where he’d been serving a two-year sentence for previous child pornography convictions in New Brunswick.

The United States Department of Homeland Security contacted the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre in Ottawa to advise that a man in Dartmouth had shared sexually explicit videos and pictures of toddlers and babies on Kik, an online instant-messaging and file-sharing app.

The man had also engaged in conversations about sexually abusing children with two people in an online chat room.

RCMP in Ottawa contacted police in the Halifax area, who were able to identify the individual as Knowles.

Police executed a search warrant at the Hearthstone Inn on June 26, arrested Knowles and seized his iPhone, which was found under the mattress in his hotel room. His statutory release was revoked and he was returned to prison.

Forensic analysis of the phone revealed two chats but no illicit images or videos, Crown attorney Rob Kennedy told the court.

“As you’ll see from conversations he was having with two individuals on Kik, he was very deliberate about not maintaining or preserving images or videos on his phone, due to his prior involvement with the justice system regarding the production and accessing of child pornography,” Kennedy said.

The U.S. authorities said some of the videos and images shared by Knowles depicted young children being sexually abused.

Kennedy and defence lawyer Colin Coady jointly recommended the 2.5-year sentence, to be served consecutively to the two-year term Knowles will finish in May.

“Protection of children is one of the most fundamental values of Canadian society,” Kennedy said. “Based on Mr. Knowles’ behaviour, he has turned this value on its head.”

Although there is no indication Knowles participated in the sexual abuse, Kennedy said his sharing of the illicit material revictimized the children.

“With utter indifference and callousness, Mr. Knowles was content to repeatedly share images and videos of young children being sexually assaulted,” the prosecutor said. “He treated them as sexual objects, not people deserving of respect and dignity.”

Knowles’ conduct was “vile and reprehensible,” Kennedy said.

“A further consecutive penitentiary term will send a message to Mr. Knowles and like-minded individuals that they will face severe consequences for (possessing) and distributing child pornography,” he said.

Knowles also has two previous convictions for aggravated assault, both involving a girl who experienced cardiac arrest while hospitalized in Moncton in 2015 and was then airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where she continued to have life-threatening episodes.

After Knowles’ access to the child was cut off, there were no further incidents of distress. Police determined he had stuck his fingers in the girl’s mouth on multiple occasions, causing her to stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest.

Knowles was charged was aggravated assault in both provinces. He received sentences of two years in prison in Halifax in June 2018 and one year concurrent in Moncton in October 2018.

He was arrested in Saint John in September 2017 on charges of making and accessing child pornography and was sentenced in May 2019.

On Tuesday, Coady said his client was remorseful and was taking responsibility for his actions.

“Mr. Knowles has a very significant problem he needs to address, and he’s doing the best he can to address it while in custody,” the defence lawyer said.

“He has been doing everything he can to try to turn his life around. Obviously, these are troubling allegations to which he’s pleaded guilty.”

Knowles told the court he just has sexual fantasies about children. “I would never really do it to a child,” he said.

“Though you may not believe that you would do those things, those things have been done,” said Judge Rickcola Brinton. “And because you’re a person distributing and possessing that material, those things can continue to be done to other children, to babies.”

The judge said the facts that were detailed in court were “difficult to even process and certainly aggravating.”

“It’s certainly very clear to me that a federal sentence is required for specific deterrence and general deterrence.” Brinton said.

“I’m limited in my information with respect to where you are on the spectrum of rehabilitation, but I take counsel at their word that this matter should be resolved in this way.”

In addition to the prison time, the judge ordered Knowles to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, prohibited him from ever having firearms and compelled him to provide a DNA sample. She also imposed a lifetime order restricting his contact with children and refused to grant an exception for phone communication with the oldest of his three daughters.

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