CPL. ERIN FRASER: The broad impact of child porn

Peninsula News Review police columnist explains the far reaching effects of crime against children

Prior to transferring to the Sidney North Saanich RCMP detachment, I was a member of our provincial Integrated Child Exploitation unit. Our mandate was to conduct high priority child exploitation investigations (those involving suspected offenders who were in positions of authority, i.e. lawyers, teachers, police officers, priests, Boy Scout leaders, etc.) and to provide investigational support to other police officers across the province. This required us to travel around B.C. with little to no notice and I kept a suitcase packed under my desk at all times. As with many members in specialized units, I never knew when I was coming home or what town or city I would end up in when I went to work each day.

One thing I never thought about before I joined the ICE unit is how deeply these crimes affect suspects and their families and what types of repercussions it can have on an entire community.

A number of years ago my team and I travelled up to Fort Nelson, B.C. to conduct a search warrant on the residence of an elementary school principal who was believed to be in possession of child pornography. The principal’s home computer IP address had been linked to a German website that was known for hosting images and videos of child pornography. The German police investigation found that his IP, as well as seven others across B.C., had accessed images and videos from this site and were thus in possession of child pornography.

It’s difficult to remain inconspicuous in a small town, but wherever we travelled my team and I did our best to blend in. After arriving in Fort Nelson, we conducted surveillance of the principal and subsequently took him into custody without incident. His wife and children were overwhelmed with shock and the community was sickened to hear of the allegations. A thorough search of the principal’s residence was conducted and computers and related digital storage media were seized for analysis. The seizure of these materials later provided the basis for charging the principal with possessing and accessing child pornography.

The principal was held in custody during our search and was subsequently interviewed at length. He was despondent and refused to acknowledge any involvement but did not deny having committed the crime. He was released late that evening via a tele-bail hearing with a judicial justice of the peace. He was given a court date and placed on several conditions which included no contact with children under 16.

In a matter of one day, the principal’s secrets were exposed and his world came crashing down on him. He publicly embarrassed himself and his family and as a result of the conditions imposed upon him, was not able to maintain his employment.

After a long 20 hour day, my team and I retreated to our hotel for some rest. Three hours later the phone rang. It was one of the uniformed members of the Fort Nelson detachment. “We found his vehicle on the Muskwa River Bridge, there’s a suicide note inside and he’s nowhere to be found.”

We rushed down to the detachment to co-ordinate a search. Two members from the Fort Nelson detachment pre-emptively scurried through the bush downstream from the bridge and located the principal. He was injured and slightly hypothermic, but miraculously still alive.

Since the time of this incident, the principal has been tried and convicted of accessing child pornography. Justice Meiklem stated that the apparent suicide attempt seemed somewhat indicative of his guilt. In Canada the mandatory minimum sentence for a person convicted, by indictment, of possessing or accessing child pornography is 45 days in jail. The principal received a five month sentence and three years probation upon his release. He is also a registered sex offender and won’t ever be able to work with children again.

This story exemplifies how one person’s crime can devastate a family and a whole community. People in possession of images and videos of child pornography fail to realize that those images and videos represent permanent records of children being sexually abused. Having possession of such items is indicative of a person’s sexual interest in children and police tirelessly continue to identify these predators in our communities.

Cpl. Erin Fraser is a supervisor and the media liaison officer for the Sidney North Saanich RCMP.