A B.C. judge has decided not to send a retired military officer to jail who “encouraged and enthusiastically supported” the abuse of a child, in part because the man has post-traumatic stress disorder from his years of service.
Judge Mayland McKimm says in a ruling issued last week from provincial court in Colwood that he believes the case meets the threshold of “truly exceptional circumstances” and merits a conditional sentence of 18 months served in the community.
The ruling says the 60-year-old man, whom The Canadian Press is not naming to protect the identity of the child, admitted to collecting 881 photos of child pornography on his devices.
It says he also had conversations with his common-law girlfriend via text message in which they discussed how they hoped to sexually exploit her five-year old son, and she sent explicit photos of the boy over a three-month period.
However, the judge found that the man’s PTSD was the “triggering factor” that led him to seek out risky behaviour and there was no evidence that the man ever touched the child.
McKimm says the man has shown sincere remorse and has serious health conditions that would make incarceration “particularly difficult.”
“In sum, 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 and committed sexual practice,” McKimm says.
The offences involving the boy were limited to between February and April 2017. By the time of his arrest in December 2017, the man had “moved on from pedophilia” and there was no evidence he continued accumulating child porn beyond February of that year, the judge says.
The accused spent the bulk of his 33-year military career serving as a medical assistant and retired as a chief warrant officer, the highest rank available without being a commissioned officer, the ruling says.
He moved in with the boy’s mother six months before the incidents began. She sent him sexually explicit text messages with his “encouragement and enthusiastic support” promoting a sexual relationship between the man and the boy, it says.
Later that year, the boy’s father came across the images of his son and text messages.
“Not surprisingly, he was horrified and shocked by what he saw and contacted the authorities,” the ruling says.
The accused was arrested in December 2017.
Man is undergoing psychological treament
The Crown called for seven to 10 months of jail plus 12 to 18 months on probation, while the man’s lawyer argued the case involved extraordinary circumstances.
The court heard that the man witnessed the atrocities of war during seven combat tours and suffered acute PTSD. However, his caregivers believed he “simply suffered from depression,” until it was diagnosed in 2019 after the charges surfaced.
McKimm says the PTSD was the “central trigger” that caused the man to “turn briefly to this dark and sinister sexual predilection.
“It is a well-known symptom that those who suffer from PTSD often turn to dangerous- and risk-seeking behaviours to combat the awful symptoms they suffer from PTSD. I am satisfied that the accused here was seeking out this risky and deplorable sexualized behaviour to deal with his symptoms.”
The man is aware of the seriousness of his behaviour and undergoing psychological treatment, the ruling says. He also suffers a serious and debilitating heart condition and ongoing kidney and gastrointestinal issues.
In addition to the conditional sentence, he will also serve probation for two years and be required to be on the sex offender information registry for 20 years.
The judge writes that the boy may never learn of his abuse and describes the boy’s father, who delivered a “powerful victim impact statement” as a real-world victim.