British Columbia

'No insight about his depravity': Judge slams foster father who abused children, sentences him to 16½ years

A B.C. provincial court judge says a jail sentence of more than 16 years is needed to punish a "truly reprehensible" man who abused the trust of children placed in his care as both a foster father and a youth worker.

Crown recommended 11-year sentence but judge said 'truly reprehensible' offender deserved more

A B.C. judge has given a 16½-year jail sentence to a 54-year-old foster father and youth worker who admitted abusing children in his care. (Shutterstock)

When asked what a judge should know about him, D.O. said he felt that he was a "genuinely good person" who had done something wrong.

The 54-year-old youth worker faced a jail sentence for the production and possession of child pornography — some of it made by sexual interference with at least six foster children placed in his care by B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development.

One of the charges against D.O. involved a picture taken of him spanking a child — not one of his foster kids — in the office of the school where he worked.

An RCMP officer broke down in the witness box while reading aloud the narratives from D.O.'s vast collection of videos.

The judge concluded D.O.'s actions were "truly reprehensible."

And yet, in that pre-sentencing statement intended for the judge, D.O. cast himself as a "nurturing person" who cares about children — going so far as to point to the case against him to make his point.

"I am not an evil stalker out to lure or go to parks to seek out children, and I am not a predator," he said.

"In a sense my charges back up what I am saying. I have never kidnapped or lured, never coerced."

'No insight about his depravity'

Provincial Court Judge Tina Dion disagreed, sentencing D.O. to 16½ years in jail last month in an extraordinary decision that saw her reach well beyond the 11-year maximum term sought by the Crown.

In choosing the harsher sentence, Dion noted the "sheer number" of D.O.'s victims, some identified, some not. She said he deliberately chose to abuse foster children who were not close to their families, knowing they wouldn't tell. And she cited the harm caused to young victims.

A provincial court judge has sentenced a former foster father to more than 16 years in jail for possession of child pornography, which depicts him abusing children in his care. (David Horemans/CBC)

"He has no insight about his depravity," the judge said.

"He has no regret or insight for his offending. He denies any harm was done to his child victims, and places the blame on others for being caught, even on his own children."    

According to Dion's ruling, it was two of D.O.'s own five children who sparked an investigation in January 2019 when they walked into a B.C. RCMP detachment to report the discovery of videos "depicting sexual acts between their father, [D.O.], and young boys in his foster care."

Like D.O.'s name and the name of the school district where he worked for 20 years as a child and youth worker, the location of the investigating police force is withheld to protect the identity of the victims.

D.O. has three biological children with his ex-wife and two sons he adopted after they were placed in his care as foster children. He claimed he never abused his own children.

The judgment says none of them have spoken to him since he was charged.

'The child is clearly resisting'

The crimes happened during an 11-year period from 2008 to 2019.

Police searched through thousands of files on D.O.'s laptop, zeroing in on hundreds of videos and at least 15 that they determined to be homemade pornography.

RCMP officers described the abuse depicted in videos found on D.O.'s laptop. The judge noted that they showed children resisting his actions. (Shutterstock)

According to the ruling, some of the children in the videos were identified as D.O.'s foster children, one was a girl placed in his home for respite care and another involved a girl at the school where he worked.

An RCMP officer described the contents of the videos in court. Some involved sleeping children. Some involved D.O. spanking the exposed buttocks of young boys.

"The child is clearly resisting," Dion said of one video.

"In another video, a young boy is crying, saying he doesn't like it. Many of the videos of spanking show the children pleading for D.O. to stop, and they attempt to stop him from hitting them."

'A little piece of him died'

While he was waiting to be sentenced, D.O. was asked how he thought his crimes might have impacted his victims.

"It's a difficult question," he told the author of a pre-sentence report. "On one occasion, if the child was never told, they would never have known and so the trauma was brought on by them being told."

The judge heard directly from D.O.'s victims. One said the abuse had left him angry and scared. He descended into drug addiction, poverty and homelessness.

Victims of the foster father said they have dealt with homelessness, poverty and addiction. One indicated 'a little piece of him died' in the man's care. (bchomeless.com)

He "lives with constant fear, and no matter the situation, he never feels comfortable," Dion wrote.

Another was recently admitted into psychiatric care. He indicated that "a little piece of him died" in D.O.'s home.

The mother of one victim is overcome by guilt.

The grandmother of two more victims said the boys were "left to the care of the ministry physically and emotionally happy, and they returned sick."

The judge compared D.O.'s perspective on his actions to the views of the children he abused.

"The contrast between D.O.'s lack of insight of the harm his offending caused his victims at the time compared to actual harm his actions have caused is plain and obvious," she concluded.

The principle of 'totality'

D.O. initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his mind on the second day of trial — entering guilty pleas on 11 counts. Dion said he did so because the case against him was overwhelming, not because he was remorseful.

The sentence was the result of a consideration of what's known as the principle of "totality" — which dictates that an offender shouldn't wind up spending a disproportionate time in jail by stacking up consecutive sentences.

Three years for each offence would have seen D.O. go to jail for 33 years.

The Crown said he deserved between seven and 11 years.

But Dion said the "profound wrongfulness and harmfulness" of his crimes against children warranted more — cutting the 33 years in half, but still ensuring that D.O. would be well into his sixties by the time he sees freedom again.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development would not comment on the specifics of the case for privacy reasons, but said it investigates all complaints of abuse in foster homes. 

The school district where D.O worked said they cooperated fully with the RCMP and that D.O.'s employment was terminated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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