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Prosecutor says man 'dodged a bullet' at sentencing in Halifax sex case involving underage girl


Duncan Robertson Wright, 46, is scheduled to stand trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in September on 25 charges involving five teens, including trafficking a person under the age of 18, receiving financial benefit from human trafficking, three counts of sexual assault and six counts of making, distributing or possessing child pornography. - Ryan Taplin / File
Duncan Robertson Wright, 46, has pleaded guilty to two sex-related charges. AT one time he faced 25 charges. - Ryan Taplin

A Crown prosecutor told Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Friday that a man who pleaded guilty to two sex-related charges in a case involving an underage girl had “dodged seven bullets,” with a sentencing agreement that will see him serve another 122 days in custody.

Duncan Robertson Wright had been facing 25 sex assault and human trafficking-related charges involving eight teens or young women. He’s been in custody since his April 2017 arrest but by the time his trial was due to start earlier this month, all but one complainant had withdrawn.

Wright pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of procuring someone under 18 for sexual services for consideration.

Prosecutor Perry Borden told the court that the offences are “as bad as they get.”

“We’re dealing with human trafficking, we’re dealing with child pornography, with obtaining sexual services of somebody under the age of 18, making arrangements, the list goes on,” Borden said during his Crown submissions before Justice Kevin Coady.

Borden said human trafficking victims are often young teenagers, some have mental health issues, some have little or no family supports, and some are often intertwined with the criminal justice system itself.

These often marginalized citizens are the ones who fall through the cracks of the justice, health care and community services systems, he said.

“They are prey and they are easily preyed upon,” Borden said. “Within the matrix of criminal offences, they are the perfect storm for vulnerable witnesses.”

Borden and defence lawyer Brian Church submitted a joint sentence recommendation of three years in jail for the sexual assault and one more for the procuring offence, to be served consecutively, for a total of four years.

With the mandatory 1.5 days credit per day of time already served applied, Wright has just 122 days remaining on the sentence. He will also be on probation for two years, will be added to the sex abuse registry and must submit a DNA sample. There will also be the forfeiture of some computer and technical equipment to be determined later.

“With the utmost respect to Mr. Wright, it is my firm belief that he dodged a bullet — or rather that he dodged seven bullets as pertains to this prosecution,” Borden told the court.

After the court session, Borden was asked if justice had been served by the sentence.

“That’s a difficult question,” he said. “I guess, depending on who you ask. From a prosecution perspective there’s no real precedent value that you can take away and say ‘this is a great result.’ As I said in there, we had some great evidence. At the end of the day, he still spent the equivalent of two-and-a-half years in jail. He’s missed Christmases, he’s been separated from society.

“Has justice been served? ... The easiest way to answer that question is determinative of who’s answering the question. From a legal perspective, the disposition that was proferred is within the range, but when we look at the totality of the indexed offences, it would be on the lower end of the range, for sure.”

An agreed statement of facts submitted to the court spelled out the offence.

Wright connected with the girl in August 2016 through a posting on the escort website Backpages. Although only 16 at the time, she represented herself as being 18. Wright paid her $120 her for sex and refused to use a condom. He learned her true age immediately after the sexual encounter.

In October 2016, the victim started using Wright’s Spryfield home to conduct sex trade work. As part of the conditions for her using his residence, Wright required her to have unpaid, unprotected sex with him. From that time to March 2017, she provided sexual services for clients between 20 and 30 times. She went to police in April 2017.

Addressing the court, Wright said he was battling morbid obesity at the time of the offences, weighing more than 500 pounds, and moved from seeking comfort in food to sex. His lawyer termed it a sex addiction.

Wright apologized to the victim’s family for “allowing my own base instincts to override my sense of right and wrong.”

He said he has since lost more than 270 pounds and told the court he now is “literally half the man I used to be.”

In accepting the joint sentencing recommendation, Justice Coady said he is bound by the founding principles of the justice system to only deal with the two charges connected with the guilty plea.


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