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Designation is reserved for offenders who are at a high risk of reoffending without treatment and supervision
Graphic content warning: this article may contain details disturbing to some readers.
A Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge has declared a 22-year-old man a long-term offender and ordered him to spend the next two years in a federal prison in order to have access to high-intensity sex-offender counselling.
The man, who cannot be named in order to protect the identities of the children he sexually assaulted, has already spent more than four years in custody. Justice Donald Burrage denied him any enhanced jail credit and gave him a total prison sentence of six years and 67 days when he sentenced him last week on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and breach of a previous sentence.
The man had pleaded guilty to the charges, acknowledging he had sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. According to an agreed statement of facts, the girl’s parent had accessed her Facebook account and found messages between her and the man, who was then 18 and bound by an order to have no contact with children under 14 and prohibiting him from using the internet, computers and mobile devices.
Upon his arrest, the man told investigators he was using the internet regularly and didn’t intend to stop. He acknowledged having been in contact with the girl on Facebook and in person, and told police he had engaged in sexual activity with her, knowing she was 13 years old. He told police he knew it was illegal given his age, adding he knew “dozens of people who f--- junior high students and get away with it.”
The man’s friends and former roommates confirmed he had been aware of the girl’s age and that she had stayed at his apartment a couple of times.
By law, a person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual activity with a person more than four years older than they are. If the activity involves certain aspects such as a position of trust, the age of consent is 18 years. All sexual activity without consent is a crime.
The man’s criminal record includes a youth conviction for sexual interference, and he acknowledged in another agreed statement of facts that he had previously sexually abused a number of children in his own family over a number of years, starting from the time he was seven or eight years old.
“He enjoyed the risk,” the agreed statement said.
“(The man) agrees that without appropriate counselling and supervision there is a likelihood that he will reoffend,” Burrage wrote in his sentencing decision.
Prosecutor Dana Sullivan had originally applied for the man to be designated a dangerous offender. For that designation, the court must be satisfied that the offender cannot overcome their behaviour. However, Sullivan changed her application to one of a long-term offender order after the man was assessed by two forensic psychiatrists, who both indicated he was at a high risk to reoffend, but the public risk could be managed if he received appropriate sex-offender treatment and community supervision upon his release from jail. Defence lawyer Tim O'Brien did not contest the application.
Burrage designated the man a long-term offender and implemented the maximum 10-year supervision order.
A judge can impose a long-term supervision order in cases where there is a high risk of an offender reoffending, but good prospects for success in treatment. The Parole Board of Canada establishes the conditions of the order once the offender is released from prison, in order to protect the public.
“(The man’s) insight into his behaviour, his history of sexual violence, as admitted by him, the facts of the predicate offences and the opinions of Dr. Gill and Dr. Bloom collectively demonstrate a likelihood of (the man) causing ‘injury, pain or other evil’ to other persons in the future through similar offences,” Burrage wrote.
On the other hand, the judge noted, the man is young, most of his crimes were committed when he was a young child and he has not displayed evidence of inappropriate sexual behaviour in custody, which one of the doctors reported might mean he is gaining more control over his behaviour as he ages. He has also repeatedly expressed a desire to participate in treatment, Burrage noted, among other positive factors.
“For the foregoing reasons I am satisfied that there are good prospects for success in treatment such as to reduce (the man’s) risk of re-offending,” he said.
“I am satisfied that the combined effect of programming and the (long-term supervision order) offers (the man) the best prospects of success, while at the same time serving to protect the community. He is still a young man and will be a young man, hopefully with a productive future, upon his release.”