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High-risk sex offender anxious to plead guilty to N.S. breach charges

Convicted sex offender John Francis Normand Dionne.
John Francis Dionne, a high-risk sex offender, faces five charges in Nova Scotia Supreme Court of violating a long-term supervision order and 11 charges of breaching a peace bond. - Halifax Regional Police

A high-risk sex offender expressed frustration in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Thursday over how long it’s taking lawyers to work out guilty pleas on charges of breaching two different court orders.

John Francis Dionne, 53, was arrested last July at a business on Akerley Boulevard in Dartmouth after allegedly violating a long-term supervision order that took effect Feb. 18, 2020, when he finished serving a prison sentence of seven years, five months and 11 days.

That sentence, imposed in Alberta provincial court in September 2012, was for kidnapping a 10-year-old girl from a Calgary store and impersonating a police officer.

Dionne faces five charges of breaching the long-term supervision order and 11 charges of breaching a peace bond obtained against him in New Brunswick provincial court in Moncton on Jan. 17, 2020, prior to his release from Dorchester Penitentiary.

Police issued a high-risk notification about Dionne last February after his prison sentence expired and he moved to the Jamieson Community Correctional Centre, a halfway house on Morris Drive in Dartmouth’s Burnside Park.

According to court documents, he’s accused of violating the supervision order by associating with someone involved in criminal activity, possessing pornography and failing to report all relationships with females to his parole supervisor.

Dionne allegedly breached the peace bond by failing to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, associating with someone with a criminal record or awaiting prosecution, possessing  a weapon, possessing a knife or sharp instrument outside his residence for non-work purposes, and loitering or encouraging contact with persons under the age of 18 at a business.

The Crown also claims Dionne contravened the peace bond by having an electronic device capable of connecting to the internet, failing to inform a police officer that he was the subject of a recognizance, viewing pornography, and entering into a personal or romantic relationship with someone who has a child without first telling police.

Dionne had been hoping to enter guilty pleas to an unknown number of charges Thursday when he appeared in court by video from jail, but lawyers advised Justice Josh Arnold they need a few more weeks to iron out the specifics of the admissions.

That prompted complaints from Dionne about wasting the court’s time.

“You may be frustrated, but the court doesn’t feel like it’s wasting time,” the judge told Dionne.

“Just so you understand, that’s what we’re here for, first of all. Secondly, you have two lawyers representing you. (They) have indicated that’s in your best interest to put the matter over so that they can sort out all the details."

Arnold scheduled the case to return to court in mid-March.

Dionne was declared a dangerous offender at his 2012 sentencing for the abduction, but the judge accepted a joint recommendation from lawyers for a determinate sentence with 10 years of supervision in the community rather than an indeterminate sentence.

This time around, the Crown is considering applying to have Dionne locked up indefinitely. After the guilty pleas are entered, prosecutor Rick Hartlen will ask for another dangerous-offender assessment to see if Dionne meets the criteria for an indeterminate sentence.

A Parole Board of Canada decision from 2019 said Dionne has multiple convictions for assault on his record, including three “of a sexual nature against young females” and one for assault causing bodily harm.

“At least one other sexual assault against a sex-trade worker was reduced to assault,” the decision said. “Extensive involvement with people in the trade is well documented."

The decision said Dionne has repeatedly violated court orders and used alcohol and crack cocaine.

“It is clear that you have been preoccupied by sexual activity for many years,” the board said. “A 2011 psychiatric assessment referenced a personality disorder, sexual sadism, an extremely elevated score on the psychopathy checklist and did not rule out pedophilia. As with other acts of violence and the behaviours exhibited when using drugs, accountability of your behaviour is needed and only met through the use of a community residential centre.”

The decision said Dionne’s intellectual limitations are an impediment to breaking his offence pattern, and he made limited gains in high-intensity programming for sex offenders.

“The risk of violence is assessed as being on the high end of moderate, and that of sexual offending extremely high.”

At the 2012 sentencing, the judge noted the Crown conceded it could not prove Dionne’s motivation in kidnapping the victim was to facilitate a sexual assault.

“It is important that Mr. Dionne be sentenced for what he did, and not for what he might have done,” Judge Allan Fradsham said. “For whatever reason, Mr. Dionne released the young girl, and did not physically harm her. His conduct in kidnapping a child was egregious enough without speculating about what might have occurred.”

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