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Repeat child sex-offender, 78, sentenced to 4-years in prison

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Nothing but maximum jail will do.

That was a Manitoba judge's finding Thursday in the case of an elderly, repeat child sex-offender who exposed himself to a little girl at a Winnipeg Walmart store.

William Astle, 78, learned he was being sent to prison for four years for the Feb. 1 indecent act, which came as he was on probation and barred from having unsupervised contact with kids.

The penalty was the most the Crown could request for the two charges Astle pleaded guilty to, for which he will serve two two-year-long consecutive sentences.

"I asked myself this," Judge Dale Harvey said of how he ultimately decided to deal with Astle's case.

"Is there any possible, logical, reasonable way to justify to any level-headed person why this untreated, repeat offender … should not be sentenced to the maximum-available sentence in order to possibly save even one more child from the horrors of his behaviour?" Harvey asked. "I cannot think of any such explanation."

The nine-year-old victim was perusing an aisle of toys at the Regent Avenue Walmart when Astle appeared very close by, his groin covered by a folded coat.

After briefly seeing him expose himself, the terrified girl fled, hid out in the store for a time and then sought help.

The incident was captured on store surveillance cameras. Astle was arrested on scene.

He told police he was just passing through the toy section on his way to another but the camera footage showed otherwise.

He'd actually been "lurking" in the toy-aisle area minutes before and had stopped near another girl who had been beckoned away by a woman, prosecutors said.

"One might be tempted to describe it as trolling," said Harvey. "There's no reason on the planet for him to have been in that toy aisle."

He eventually owned up to what he did, telling police he would have liked the girl to keep on staring.

Astle has several prior convictions for sexual crimes against children.

He's also one of a small handful of sex offenders the province and police warn the public about when about to get out of jail due to the risk they say he poses.

Harvey noted Astle has been warned and sanctioned by the courts about his behaviour in the past, as well as offered help.

It hasn't done anything to curb his offending, he suggested.

Rehabilitation at this point is "impossible," Harvey said.

"Mr. Astle does not accept that he has a problem."

Astle has more than 3 1/2 years left to serve after his time spent on remand was factored in.

The Parole Board of Canada, in the past, has deemed him ineligible for parole out of concerns he'll reoffend when back in the community.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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