Kelowna veteran avoids jail time for child porn due to his PTSD

Veteran avoids jail time

An Okanagan military veteran avoided jail time for his possession of child porn conviction, due, in part, to the post-traumatic stress he suffers from as a result of the horrific violence he witnessed on seven overseas tours with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Sean Parker, a 30-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and former Brigade Sergeant Major with the Okanagan's B.C. Dragoons, pleaded guilty last November to a single count of possession of child pornography, after Google first contacted American authorities in December 2017 about child pornography uploaded to a Gmail account. The account was tracked to Kelowna, and local RCMP began to investigate.

The following April, child pornography was uploaded to a Tumblr blog on three occasions, and Tumblr also reported the incidents to American authorities. The blog was tracked back to the same IP address as the Gmail incident, which was linked to Parker's home in Kelowna.

On Aug. 6, 2018, Kelowna RCMP officers executed a search warrant on the home, where they found a total of 39 images of child pornography on a computer, hard drive and cell phone, with children estimated to be as young as three years old.

During the search, Parker fully cooperated with police, giving them passwords to all his devices.

The 30-year military veteran joined the Canadian Armed forces at 19 years old, and served on tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Croatia, among other places.

“Those countries were war zones and Canadian service members witnessed horrific acts of violence and human tragedy and Mr. Parker himself reports that during his service, he experienced several traumatic events,” Crown prosecutor Patricia O'Neill said during sentencing submissions Thursday.

In December 2013, Parker was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A psychiatric report found that Parker turned to alcohol to deal with his mental health issues.

Upon his arrest, Parker admitted to police that he struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, along with sex and pornography addictions.

“He stated that he drank and used drugs to drown out traumatic memories from his overseas deployments with the Canadian military,” O'Neil said.

“He would drink to the point of blacking out and would be horrified by his browser searches during the following morning ... Mr. Parker could not recall specific acts of searching for, accessing, downloading or uploading child pornography, but accepted responsibility for his online activities.”

During his psychiatric assessment, Parker denied having any pedophilic sexual interests, and the psychiatrist labelled him a below-average risk to reoffend.

“I've always spent my life doing the right thing and being there for people when they couldn't defend themselves,” Parker said in court Thursday. “To find myself in a situation where I'm part of the problem is extremely hard to manage. I'm so full of self loathing and disgust that this is the situation I'm in.”

Parker said he feels “like a monster,” but after surviving a suicide attempt in January 2019, he's been regularly attending counselling for his PTSD and alcoholism.

“I have made significant steps to deal with my psychological problems, I've quit drinking, I've done everything that I possibly can to make this better, atone for it.”

Crown and defence counsel Grant Gray submitted a joint sentencing submission of 18 months of a conditional sentence order followed by three years of probation. A conditional sentence order is a sentence that's served within the community under certain conditions, but the offender can be sent to jail if they breach those conditions.

Possession of child pornography once carried a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail, but that mandatory minimum was ruled unconstitutional by the BC Supreme Court last year.

Judge Monica McParland, calling the matter an “interesting case,” agreed with the joint submission. Parker will be under 24-hour house arrest, save for travel to and from employment, for the first six months of his conditional sentence order, followed by a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the next six months of his sentence.

He will be barred from using the internet, save for several uses including banking, paying bills, accessing government websites or employment purposes. He also will be restricted from drinking alcohol through his 18-month conditional sentence order and his three years of probation that follows.

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