NORTH OKANAGAN - A North Okanagan man arrested for planting a camera in the bathroom and peeping on his step-daughter while she showered claimed he had a good reason for doing so: He suspected she was taking pictures of herself.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, said he wanted to keep tabs on the 13-year-old because he didn’t want her taking pictures of herself and emailing them. He was charged with two counts of secretly observing/recording nudity in a private place, and two counts of making or publishing child pornography.
He pleaded guilty to one count of making or publishing child pornography and was sentenced in Vernon Provincial Court today, March 13.
Crown counsel Oliver Potestio said the accused was arrested in October 2014, after his ex-girlfriend found two videos on a thumb drive. The videos showed the accused setting up a camera in the bathroom and then leaving the room. Some time later, his step-daughter enters, undresses and showers.
The woman who found the videos was ‘terrified’ because her ex was involved with children at a military camp. She brought the information to police.
No evidence was entered in court to suggest any other children were victimized.
Mounties searched the man's home and seized a laptop, cell phones, memory cards, cameras and other electronics. They also found a marijuana grow-op, but no drug-related charges were ever laid, Potestio said. Another of the accused’s children also lived in the home at the time.
In a police statement, the accused admitted to taking the videos, but said he did so because he wanted to know what the girls were doing and was concerned his step-daughter was taking pictures of herself and emailing them. He said the motivation was not sexual in nature, and that he intended to delete the videos but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. The videos were recorded over a roughly two-year period.
On review of the seized items, police found a total of four videos plus 28 still images, appearing to have been taken from the videos themselves. There was no evidence indicating the accused transmitted the videos or images.
Potestio described the crime as “an invasion of privacy” and “an egregious breach of parental trust.”
“(He) does not fully appear to grasp the circumstances and take responsibility,” Potestio said.
A psychiatrist found that while the accused continues to minimize the offence, he is considered a low risk of reoffending.
Potestio asked Provincial Court Judge Richard Hewson to impose a sentence in the range of 16 to 18 months, plus a three-year probation with conditions, and a 20-year designation on the sex offender registry.
Defence lawyer Brian Loewen argued that compared to other cases involving child pornography, this offender is at the low end of the spectrum. He said there is no evidence the videos were used for self gratification or that they were distributed to others.
Loewen also noted that the guilty plea, although it came after a preliminary inquiry, spared the victim from testifying at trial. He asked Judge Hewson to impose the one-year mandatory minimum, plus a three-year probation.
The accused took an opportunity to address the court and apologize for what he did.
“I wasn’t doing it for any sick reason,” he said.
He said he regrets it and that his life is “more or less ruined.”
During the hearing, Hewson described the offence as ‘deeply disturbing’. While reading out his sentence, he said it is important to condemn this type of activity, and let the public know it won’t be tolerated in society.
Hewson said there was a degree of planning and premeditation involved, including the accused telling the child it was time to shower after he had positioned the camera. The child had a right to believe the accused, as a parental figure, would protect her privacy, especially in the space of her own home.
“He did just the opposite,” Hewson said.
Hewson ordered a 14-month jail term, followed by a three-year probation and 20-year designation on the sexual offender registry. As part of his probation, the man is banned from having contact with children under age 16, and cannot possess any cameras.
The accused was handcuffed and escorted from court by sheriffs immediately following the sentence hearing.
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