Church leader jailed for 'predatory' sex assaults on young girl

Sex crimes jail church elder

A Kamloops-area church leader who for nearly a decade preyed sexually on a young girl in his congregation has been ordered to spend a year in prison.

The 77-year-old man cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban put in place to protect the identity of the victim. Castanet Kamloops is not naming the community in which the incidents took place or the church because doing so could identify the victim.

The man pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual interference and was sentenced Tuesday.

Court heard the offending took place over a period of more than nine years, between 2008 and 2017, while the girl was between the ages of eight and 17.

“The offences involve touching and groping over a period of years and do not involve penetration or sexual intercourse,” Kamloops provincial court Judge Ray Phillips said Tuesday in sentencing the man.

Court heard the victim attended home school at the man’s house, taught by his wife. When the victim finally disclosed the allegations to his wife, the man turned himself in to police and admitted everything.

The man and the victim were part of a close-knit church community and the offences took place in that setting.

“On one occasion, he said [she] was tempting him because he could see her underwear under her church outfit,” Phillips said.

A pre-sentence report labelled the man a low risk to re-offend, and he apologized in court.

“I can never say too many sorries,” he said. “I can never undo the harm that I have done.”

The man was “banished” by his church after the allegations came to light, court heard, and now lives in a rural community west of Kamloops.

Crown prosecutor Leah Winters was seeking a 20-month prison sentence, while defence lawyer Joe Killoran sought house arrest. Killoran cited the man’s age and undiagnosed dementia in seeking the lenient sentence.

Calling the man’s actions “opportunistic and predatory behaviour,” Phillips said the gravity of the offending took house arrest off the table.

Once he is released from jail, the man will spend 18 months on probation. He will also spend 10 years on conditions barring him from attending any parks, playgrounds or theatres, or working or volunteering with kids.

In addition, the man was ordered to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database and must register as a sex offender for 20 years.

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