Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sentence overturned; prison for lingerie thief

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James Duerksen spent more than two decades invading the privacy of unsuspecting female victims and satisfying his sexual fetishes. Now the convicted serial lingerie thief is headed to prison after the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned a conditional sentence that allowed him to remain free in the community.

Duerksen, 40, learned this week the high court has imposed a four-year sentence for crimes they call "strange and disconcerting." Duerksen, a married father of two, pleaded guilty last year to 92 charges of break, enter and theft that occurred over a 21-year period in Manitoba and Alberta.

"The (original) sentence was wholly unfit," the appeal court wrote in their decision released Wednesday. They said sparing Duerksen from custody was a mistake.

"The accused would identify a home inhabited by a woman, wait until the residents were at church and then enter the home to steal the woman's lingerie," they wrote. "Moreover, the psychological report done on the accused postulated that his acts arose from a desire for power over the women whose undergarments he stole."

Duerksen committed many of his crimes while living in Rosenort, about 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg. Provincial court Judge Marvin Garfinkel had rejected the Crown's bid for a lengthy prison sentence last year, saying he believed Duerksen was mentally ill and could get better help without custody.

That rationale didn't fly with the Court of Appeal.

"We have repeatedly held that, absent exceptional circumstances, someone who breaks into another's home once should generally expect a sentence in the range of two years," they wrote in their decision. "While we are all in agreement that there are significant mitigating circumstances, the number, duration and seriousness of the offences committed in this case require a denunciatory and deterrent sentence of incarceration."

Many of the victims -- including teenage girls -- attended the same church in the Rosenort area and began to suspect Duerksen may be responsible. Several citizens secretly searched his garage and found garbage bags stuffed with their missing bras and panties, court was told.

Duerksen later confessed to police, saying he'd been committing these types of crimes all the way back to the mid-1990s when he was living in Alberta.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2012 B3

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