Judge spares child-luring convict from prison time – Winnipeg Free Press | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

A Manitoba man convicted of child luring has been spared a mandatory sentence behind bars, after a judge ruled it would be “grossly disproportionate” for his crime and violate his charter rights.

Provincial court Judge Cynthia Devine rejected a three-year prison term recommended by Crown prosecutors, and instead sentenced the 47-year-old man to 12 months of house arrest, followed by two years of probation.

The Free Press is not naming the man, as it may identify his victim.

Prosecutors proceeded by indictment. For the offence of child luring, that means a conviction comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail.

“A mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence for this offence is too excessive in light of the adequate alternative of a conditional sentence order,” Devine said in a written decision last month.

“Although a jail sentence is appropriate in this case, it is unnecessary for it to be served in a correctional setting,” Devine said, noting mandatory minimum sentences for child luring have been struck down in three out of four constitutional challenges heard in provincial courts of appeal across Canada.

The man and his victim, a 15-year-old boy, both worked for the boy’s father, a longtime friend.

Court heard at trial the man was a closeted bisexual and alcoholic and lived with homophobia in his small Manitoba community.

Over a two-week period, the man texted the boy at night when he was drunk, “essentially grooming him to win his trust and affections,” Devine said.

While the texts included no explicit sexual language, “the inference is clear” the man was encouraging the boy to masturbate himself, Devine said.

The texts stopped abruptly and police arrested the man for luring in August 2020.

After the man was convicted, his lawyer, Adam Hodge, filed a charter challenge, arguing the mandatory minimum sentence was unconstitutional in his client’s case, as it violated his right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Child luring “covers a broad range of conduct,” with the convicted man’s conduct falling at the “lower range,” Devine said.

There was no evidence the man planned his actions, and there was no physical contact between the man and his victim.

“The type of luring the accused was convicted of in this case was not like the widespread phenomenon of online child luring, which has led to unprecedented access to millions of children globally by sex predators,” Devine said.

“This is not a case where the offender was a sexual predator on the internet looking for children to lure into some type of sexual activity. … The behaviour was late at night when the offender was intoxicated and his inhibitions were lowered.”

Following his arrest, the man lost his job, as well as a number of friends, and became suicidal, Devine said.

He has since completed a residential treatment program for his alcohol addiction. He is the sole caregiver for his ailing mother and, but for an impaired driving conviction, has no prior criminal record.

Had prosecutors charged the man with invitation to sexual touching and proceeded by way of summary conviction, the man would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of just three months in jail, Devine said.

“The upshot is that if this had been a summary conviction proceeding and (the man) had invited the victim in person to masturbate himself or another person, the mandatory minimum he would be facing is 90 days,” the defence lawyer said.

“A jail sentence to be served in jail, no matter how short its duration, would be grossly disproportionate for this offence and this offender.”

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Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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