A longtime Manitoba school trustee has been spared a jail sentence for trying to entice what he believed was a 13-year-old girl into a sexual relationship.
Norbert Van Deynze, 61, recently pleaded guilty in a Morden courtroom to a charge of Internet luring just as his preliminary hearing was set to begin. The Free Press reviewed a transcript of the hour-long sentencing hearing on Thursday.
Van Deynze was arrested two years ago following an investigation by members of the Integrated Child Exploitation unit. A police officer posing as a teen named "Bobby-Jo" engaged in a series of explicit chats with Van Deynze between October 2011 and May 2012. The officer repeatedly stated her fictional age so there was no confusion who the accused thought he was talking to, court was told.
Crown attorney Lee Turner was seeking 18-months of custody for Van Deynze, saying a strong message must be sent to society about a type of crime that is becoming more frequent.
"Certainly this is very troubling contact," said Turner.
But provincial court Judge Mary Kate Harvie agreed with Van Deynze’s request for a 12-month conditional sentence that allows him to remain free in the community. She noted his lack of prior criminal record and an expert finding that he is a low-risk to re-offend. Van Deynze was also placed on one year of supervised probation.
"It’s totally and absolutely out of character," defence lawyer Richard Wolson told court.
Van Deynze lives in Somerset with his wife of 40 years, is a father of four and a grandfather of 10. He had been a trustee with the Prairie Spirit School Division for 16 years but resigned within days of his arrest.
Wolson described Van Deynze as an otherwise model citizen who runs a successful family farming business, operates the local curling club, does countless community work and is a weekly church volunteer.
"This is a man who has done everything right for his whole life," said Wolson. "It all came crashing down when he started to use these Internet chat lines."
Van Deynze was caught encouraging the person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl to repeatedly fondle herself while telling her various sexual things he’d like to do with her. There was never talk of actually meeting face-to-face, court was told.
"This was pure fantasy," said Wolson.
Van Deynze never spent a day in custody, having been released on bail following his arrest. His conditions included having no computer access and not being alone with anyone under the age of 16.
Wolson said his client is now done with technology and will instead focus on regaining the trust of his community and his family, who continue to stand by him.
"You’ve very fortunate to have a supportive family, both before and after this type of offence," said Harvie.