Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Child-porn offender was just 15

Youth avoids jail sentence because of his age

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An international child-pornography investigation snagged an unusual suspect -- a 15-year-old boy believed to be one of the youngest ever arrested for the crime in Manitoba.

The teen, who recently turned 18, pleaded guilty on Monday to his role in the 2008 case, which began with authorities in Austria tracing his computer address to Winnipeg. He instantly admitted guilt when contacted by police, saying he'd been downloading explicit nude images and movies of children since he was 12.

"It's very peculiar that he begins looking at child pornography when he himself is a child," Crown attorney Terry McComb told court.

The teen was given a sentence of two years' supervised probation as part of a joint recommendation from lawyers. As an adult, he would have faced a mandatory minimum jail sentence.

"I know what I've done for a while now is very wrong. I feel very bad, a lot of grief and embarrassment for my family," he said Monday.

Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds told court his client has made great strides while free on bail, including regular meetings with a therapist delving into some of the root causes of his behaviour. Police seized several computer discs containing images of girls as young as four years old being sexually abused by adults.

Upon his arrest, the teen told police he didn't see those children as victims "because most of them are smiling." Yet he admitted to being a "dirty guy who does dirty things" and described struggling to break away from what had become a daily addiction.

His arrest came as a shock to his family, including his father who serves in the Canadian military, court was told.

McComb said there have only been a handful of child-pornography cases ever discovered in Manitoba involving young offenders.

The teen and his family have since moved to Ontario, where he will be supervised by probation officials. His conditions include restricted Internet and cellular phone access, and he will be placed on the national sex-offender registry.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2011 A6

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