Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maximum sentence for sex offender

Gets four years after flashing girl in toy aisle

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Nothing but the maximum sentence will do.

That was a judge's ruling Thursday in the case of an elderly sex-offender who exposed himself to a 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.

Astle pleaded guilty to two charges, and the penalty was the harshest the Crown could request. He will serve a pair of two-year consecutive sentences.

"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?" Judge Dale Harvey asked. "I cannot think of any such explanation."

The nine-year-old girl was looking at toys at the Regent Avenue store when Astle appeared with his groin covered by a folded coat.

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

The incident was captured on surveillance cameras.

Astle was arrested on the scene.

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

He was "lurking" in the toy area minutes before and had stopped near another girl who was called 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 admitted to the crime, 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 handful of sex offenders the province and police warn the public about when they are about to be freed from custody.

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.

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

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2014 A7

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