Former school janitor gets 6-month community sentence for 1986 sexual assault of boy

A former Saint John elementary school janitor who sexually assaulted a boy more than 30 years ago has been given a six-month conditional sentence to be served in the community, followed by one year of probation.

John Hunt, 68, 'poses no real risk going forward,' Crown prosecutor says

John Hunt changed his plea in February to guilty of one count of indictable sexual assault against a boy in 1986. (CBC)

A former Saint John elementary school janitor who sexually assaulted a boy more than 30 years ago has been given a six-month conditional sentence to be served in the community, followed by one year of probation.

John William Hunt, 68, who used to work at Morna Heights Elementary School, was also ordered Tuesday to provide a DNA sample and will be on the national sex offender registry for 20 years.

Hunt showed no reaction to the sentence as he sat upright and alone in the front row of Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench.

His victim, who was about 13 or 14 years old at the time of the offence, did not attend the sentencing but said in a victim impact statement earlier this month that he continues to deal with "issues of anger, shame, guilt, anxiety, depression and loss of control."

Hunt abruptly changed his plea to guilty mid-trial on Feb. 27 to one count of indictable sexual assault between June 1 and Sept. 30, 1986.

The abuse occurred at Morna Heights, but the victim was not a student at the west Saint John elementary school, the courtroom heard.

Hunt, who is retired after 35 years working for the school board's maintenance department at various schools, has no prior criminal record and "poses no real risk going forward to any other individual," said Crown prosecutor Patrick Wilbur.

10-year maximum

Sexual assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but the Crown and defence jointly recommended the six-month conditional sentence.

Although the Crown believes jail is the "appropriate" sentence for the offence, "the unique circumstances of this individual and this case, make it so that a [conditional sentence order] isn't inappropriate," said Wilbur, citing the pre-sentence report.

It described Hunt as an "extremely polite and forthcoming … even-tempered and mild-mannered" man with no substance abuse or anger issues.

I hope with continued help I can move forward and have a more peaceful life.- Gregory Melanson, victim

He lives an isolated life raising homing pigeons, breeding canaries and gardening since his partner, who was 20 years his senior passed away, the report states.

The Crown did not want to "burden the system with the cost of housing Hunt," given the circumstances, Wilbur said.

Defence lawyer Rodney Macdonald pointed out the age of consent at the time of the offence was 14, and there was no minimum sentence at that time.

Hunt has apologized to his victim, Macdonald said.

Must follow conditions

Justice William Grant accepted the joint sentencing recommendation after weighing Hunt's pre-sentence report, the victim impact statement, aggravating and mitigating factors, as well as case law.

If Hunt breaches any of the conditions of his community-based sentence, he will serve the remainder of the term behind bars.

Among those conditions, Hunt must keep the peace and be of good behaviour, and attend counselling as directed by his probation officer. He is prohibited from possessing any firearms or other weapons for 10 years and must pay a victim fine surcharge within 60 days.

Hunt's victim, Gregory Melanson, now 45, had requested the publication ban on his identity be lifted so he could speak publicly in hopes of helping other victims.

He reported the abuse to Saint John police about two years ago. He said in a videotaped statement that Hunt performed oral sex on him in the principal's office and that he masturbated Hunt in the gym.

Melanson said he never told anyone about the abuse out of "fear of being judged, blame or shame."

"I hope with continued help I can move forward and have a more peaceful life."

With files from Connell Smith