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No walk in park for dog-loving sex offender

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Timothy Torres's love for man's best friend has cost him 16 months of freedom — and put himself on a very short leash for three years after that.

That's the mixed jail and probation punishment Torres, 28, received today for taking his dog to not one, but three different Winnipeg parks and/or playgrounds one day last June.

Before I confuse you further, let me be clear about who Torres is. He's a child rapist behind one of the most awful sexual assaults of recent memory this city has seen.

In December 2007, Torres picked up an "unsophisticated" 11-year-old girl — a total stranger — who for some reason was out walking along Arlington Street near Alexander Avenue at 3 a.m.

He drove her to a secluded area nearby and attacked her after threatening her. He told police he believed she was a sex-trade worker.

The Parole Board of Canada described the horrific attack as "brutal."

He wasn't arrested until days later, after police bent over backwards to bring him to justice through various means. In August 2009, he was handed a seven-year sentence for the crime. Court heard at the time he suffered from "significant" psychological issues.

Importantly, he was ordered to not attend public parks, playgrounds, daycare centres or other places where females under the age of 16 may congregate.

In the days before the attack, Torres frequently sought out sex-trade workers to satisfy his sexual urges. He suffered from a "conflict of masculinity and sense of self" and didn't believe he would be caught.

He was sent packing to prison, only to get mandatory statutory release in 2012.

In April that year, he was busted after approaching an undercover officer posing as a sex-trade worker and returned to custody. He says he approached what he believed to be a sex-trade worker to see if he could withstand the temptation.

By June 12, 2013, Torres was again out on release from prison.

What he didn't know is that police had him under constant covert watch.

That day, they saw him and two relatives leave a Dim Sum restaurant. Not long after, at 5:25 p.m., he and his dog were surveilled at The Forks, where they stayed for a brief time.

Torres and the animal then went to a park along Waterfront Drive, walked for a bit and then left.

He drove to the West End, where police watched him stop at a pet store before heading off to the Clifton Community Centre by 6:18 p.m. There were no kids nor organized activities taking place at the time. But still, his mere attendance there — even for one split second — was in violation of the no parks/playgrounds ban he lives under.

He only compounded his problems when he and the dog then drove to Garbage Hill (Westview Park), where there were a number of kids — including teen girls — present, some taking part in organized sports. He went to the top of the hill and walked his dog for about half an hour.

To be fair, he didn't do anything, nor use the dog as a "device" to children. When police slapped the cuffs on him soon after, Torres was upset to be back in custody and what impact that could have on his job and family life.

Safely back behind bars, police slapped him with three charges of breaching the no-going-to-parks ban in July. He pleaded guilty a few weeks back. The Crown sought the maximum-available term of two years for the breaches.

Judging from Judge Tim Killeen's ruling today, Torres did himself no favours by speaking up and telling the judge he was just looking for a place to walk his dog, and couldn't find an off-leash dog park because he's forbidden from accessing the Internet.

The tale of woe "troubled me greatly," Killeen said.

"None of us are going to tolerate you putting yourself into any situation where is any possible contact," Killeen told him. "You absolutely don't get this," Killeen said. It's about us needing protection from you, he added. Only a lengthy term in jail would satisfy the need to ensure Torres "gets it," as the saying goes.

Neither Torres nor his parents, who were in court in support of him, showed much emotion after learning he'd be locked up for the next 11 months (he was credited for five months of time-served, which included a small measure of extra credit from Killeen).

After he's released, Torres will be on three years of supervised probation, which includes 17 conditions: A nightly curfew, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, reporting any relationships, not being alone with any female under age 18 unless supervised, no access to computers and — again — that schools, playgrounds, parks are totally off limits.

"I hope that he comes to understand he is the author of his own misfortune," Killeen said.

The judge credited the Winnipeg police for how diligent they were in keeping tabs on Torres. 

"I commend their activities in being proactive in this fashion," Killeen said.

So should we all, in my view. 

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About James Turner

James Turner rejoined the Free Press as a justice-beat reporter in August 2013 after a number of years away working at other media outlets, including the Winnipeg Sun and CBC Manitoba.

A reporter in Winnipeg since 2005, he got his first taste of the justice beat as a former Free Press intern, then as the newspaper's police reporter from 2008-09.

Among the topics he's eager to cover are youth crime, street gangs, child-welfare and how the mental health and justice systems intersect.

An avid blogger and early adopter of Twitter, James (@heyjturner) loves to write long, much to the frustration of his editors.

He despises animal cruelty. He loves 80s music and his tubby labrador retriever.

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