A former member of Canada’s military who encouraged his partner to send him sexually explicit photos of her five-year-old son and fantasized about how they would sexually exploit the child will be allowed to serve an 18-month jail sentence in the community.
The 60-year-old man, whose name is not being published to protect the identity of his victim, pleaded guilty to possessing 881 child pornography images between February and April 2017. He will spend the first 12 months of his conditional sentence under house arrest with strict conditions. At the end of his sentence, he will be placed on probation for two years.
Victoria provincial court Judge Mayland McKimm noted that the range of sentence for possession of child pornography is six to 10 months for people with no criminal history, except in exceptional circumstances.
In this case, the man was deployed to seven combat tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan, the Golan Heights and Somalia. After his arrest, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a serious and debilitating heart condition, which makes serving a jail sentence difficult.
“The accused suffered from PTSD as a result of his service to his country. … Those who suffer from PTSD often turn to dangerous and risk-seeking behaviours to combat the awful symptoms they suffer,” McKimm said. “I am satisfied that the accused here was seeking out this risky and deplorable sexualized behaviour to deal with his symptoms.”
These exceptional circumstances allow for a conditional sentence order, rather than a traditional period of incarceration, said the judge.
Court heard that the man was in a relationship with the mother of a five-year-old boy. However, it’s not clear how much of a relationship he had developed with the child, McKimm said.
In February 2017, when the man was deployed at sea as a member of the navy reserve, the mother, “with the encouragement and enthusiastic support” of the man, began sending sexually explicit text messages and photos.
In text conversations, the couple discussed in detail how they hoped to sexually exploit the child when the accused was back on land. They also discussed drugging the child to further their carnal interests, McKimm said.
The man also encouraged the woman to seek out young children they could victimize in the neighbourhood.
However, there was no evidence the man ever touched the child or acted out his fantasies, McKimm said.
Eight months later, the boy’s father found the images and text conversations on the man’s iPad, and called police.
In a report prepared for the court, forensic psychologist Bruce Monkhouse attributed the man’s deviant behaviour to PTSD.
“In my opinion, the accused’s long-standing use of pornography and most recently engaging in very risky and highly inappropriate sexual behaviour with his partner, may to a significant degree be due to his attempting to cope with the high levels of PTSD he is currently experiencing,” Monkhouse wrote.
McKimm noted that “the horrendous crimes” involving the child took place over a two-month period.
“We are dealing with an individual who, for a relatively brief period of time, dabbled in the dark and odious world of child pornography and pedophilia. It was not a sustained or committed sexual practice.”
McKimm found the serious aggravating factors to be the collection of child pornography, which was extensive, organized and copied, and evidence that the accused assisted in the production of child pornography. Also aggravating is the breach of trust involving the child.
“He was an active participant and party to the actions of his co-accused in the abuse of her son. He encouraged the taking of sexually explicit photographs of the child and actively encouraged her exploitation of the child in both fantasy and reality,” McKimm said.
A powerful victim impact statement from the boy’s father shows that this atrocious behaviour had real-world victims, even if the child is unaware of it, said the judge.
In mitigation, the accused entered a guilty plea, accepted responsibility and is sincerely remorseful. He has no criminal history and served his country for more than 30 years, McKimm said.
His treating psychologist believes the man can be safely managed in the community because he never had any hands-on sexual involvement with the child.
The child’s mother is still before the courts.