Ex-councillor Donnie Snook may face more child abuse charges

Former Saint John councillor Donnie Snook, who pleaded guilty last month to 46 child exploitation charges, could be facing even more charges, says his defence lawyer.

Defence lawyer Dennis Boyle says additional charges could be pending

Former Saint John councillor Donnie Snook, who pleaded guilty last month to 46 child exploitation charges, could be facing even more charges, says his defence lawyer.

Dennis Boyle told reporters on Tuesday the police investigation against his client is complete.

Former Saint John councillor Donnie Snook will return to court for a sentencing hearing on Aug. 29 and 30. (CBC)

"It's just a matter of collating all the information," he said after a brief court appearance to set a date for a sentencing hearing for Snook.

Asked whether more charges could still be pending, Boyle said simply, "Yeah."

The case against Snook, 41, is already one of the biggest sex abuse cases in New Brunswick's history.

He pleaded guilty last month to 46 charges dating back to 2001 involving 17 boys as young as five years old. The charges include sexual assault, sexually touching a minor while in a position of trust, making child pornography, and extortion.

Sentencing hearing set for August

A sentencing hearing on those charges will be held on Aug. 29 and may continue the following day if more time is required to relay all of the facts of the case.

Provincial court Judge Alfred Brien said he may not sentence Snook until a later date, once he has had time to consider all of the information.

"It's an unfortunate but unavoidable delay," Snook's lawyer said about the sentencing hearing not being until the end of August.

There is a shortage of professionals in the province able to conduct the type of pre-sentence report required, Boyle told reporters.

"The ultimate thrust of this is to see what tendencies toward pedophilia he has, establish a baseline there and also to try to find out propensity to reoffend," he said.

Crown prosecutors informed the judge they have now found an expert, but the assessment is expected to take 10 weeks.

The Crown is also still contacting Snook's victims to provide victim impact statements for the court's consideration.

Snook, a former youth ministry leader, who also served as a foster parent and community volunteer, remains in custody at an undisclosed location.

4 charges in Newfoundland

Defence lawyer Dennis Boyle said he could not comment on the four charges against Snook in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

His lawyer said he could not comment on the four sex abuse charges Snook is facing in his native province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where he worked as a senior pastor at the now-defunct Salvation Army church in Mount Moriah during the mid-1990s.

Snook has not yet entered pleas on those charges, which include two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual interference involving a boy who was under the age of 14 at the time of the alleged offences in 1995-96.

The New Brunswick charges against Snook include nine counts of making child pornography, two counts of possession of child pornography and two counts of making child pornography available.

There are also two counts of sexual assault, 13 counts of sexually touching a minor, 10 counts of inviting a youth to touch him, three counts of touching a child for a sexual purpose while in a position of trust and four counts of communicating with a child for a sexual purpose.

One of the charges is extortion — inducing a child by threats to distribute or post a naked picture of himself.

Police say the crimes began in 2001 and involved 17 boys between the ages of five and 15, most of whom were from the Saint John area.

The investigation started in Toronto in 2011 when an RCMP officer discovered an unknown person in the Saint John area trading child pornography online.

Change name of Chicken Noodle Club

Judith Meinert-Thomas believes the name of the Chicken Noodle Club has been tainted by the Snook case and should be changed. (CBC)

Judith Meinert-Thomas, one of handful of people who attended Tuesday's court proceedings, is a former board member of the Inner City Youth Ministry that Snook worked for.

She contends the ministry should change the name of the hot lunch program it runs for at-risk youth.

The Chicken Noodle Club has been "tainted" by the case, she told reporters.

"I think it carries a certain amount of stigma – not because of the people who ran it, or not because of the volunteers, not because of the Anglican church, but just because of what happened to one person."

Meinert-Thomas believes the program "absolutely can survive."

Snook's case has, however, made it difficult for some of the volunteers involved, she said.

"When I say to people I volunteered for four or five years at the Chicken Noodle Club, they kind of [say] 'Oh, yeah,' as if to say, 'What did you see? What do you know? What was going on and so on."

Meinert-Thomas said the board will also have to ensure it has rules and regulations to ensure any future hires are "spotless."

She was not a member of the board when Snook was hired, so she could not say what hiring process he went through.

But she, like many people in the city, was "floored" by the news of his arrest.

"It was a horrible, horrible feeling, the worst sinking feeling. I couldn’t talk about it for two or three days and everywhere you went, everybody was talking about it so it was pretty hard to avoid," said Meinert-Thomas.

"He just seemed to have this side where he did so much good for the city, he was obviously popular, everywhere he went it was, 'Hi Donnie. Hi Donnie,'" she said.

"We talked, we laughed and you think you know somebody and there’s a lot of compartmentalizing going on in some people and that’s exactly what we saw with Donnie Snook."