St. Albert taxi driver given 7-month sentence for child luring

Imam Buksh, 71, has been sentenced to seven months in jail, to be followed by 18-months probation, after pleading guilty to child luring.

Imam Buksh apologized to the court ‘from a very, very sad heart’

The St. Albert taxi company that was owned by Imam Buksh. (Imam Buksh/R5 Taxi )

A retired St. Albert taxi driver has been sentenced to seven months in jail after pleading guilty to child luring. 

Imam Buksh, 71, will be on probation for 18 months once he's released from custody. 

He admitted that in April 2018 he communicated with a person he believed was under the age of 16 for a sexual purpose. Buksh exchanged 775 text messages over nine days with an undercover police officer who was pretending to be a 15-year-old girl. 

"Some of these text messages are very graphic," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman said Wednesday. "They are sexually explicit. It appears you are apparently looking for a hookup with this person you believe to be 15-years of age." 

Buksh was the target of an undercover sting after Crimestoppers got a tip in January 2018 alleging he was giving free taxi rides to girls and buying them alcohol and food. 

The Northern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation Unit interviewed a 15-year-old girl, whose name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban. 

She told police she met Buksh in late 2017 when she and her friends were leaving a party and called for a cab. He didn't charge them and she took another 10 free rides from him after that. 

According to an agreed statement of facts, Buksh "made comments that [she] found inappropriate and made her uncomfortable." 

Buksh was arrested and charged in April 2018 outside a St. Albert Tim Hortons. He showed up there thinking he was going to meet the 15-year-old who was actually an undercover officer.

"He was fully cooperative with authorities," defence lawyer David Wolsey told the judge on Wednesday. "He didn't try to hide anything when he was brought in. He gave a 150-page statement." 

'He is very remorseful'

Forensic psychologist George Pugh assessed Buksh for the court. After meeting with him twice, Pugh wrote, "The shock and shame of the present matter has been extremely devastating for Mr. Buksh. He is very remorseful." 

The psychologist testified that Buksh was shocked by the public condemnation he faced once the charges against him were made public.

"He lost friends," Pugh testified on Wednesday. "He didn't understand the abhorrence members of the community would have." 

Pugh told the court that Buksh's criminal behaviour seemed to be very much out of character and could have been an impulsive act, noting he had no prior criminal record. 

"I don't think he thought it all the way through that the comments would have been very upsetting for a 15-year-old girl," Pugh told the court. 

The psychologist concluded that Buksh presented a low risk to sexually reoffend, in large part due to his advanced age. His report indicated that testing showed "the primary risk concerns are his interest in young females." 

Crown prosecutor Parminder Johal suggested an 18-month sentence, noting the 53-year age difference between Buksh and the undercover persona. 

The defence suggested a period of probation but no jail time. 

Before he was sentenced, the defence lawyer read from a statement written by Buksh. 

"I still apologize from a very, very sad heart," Buksh wrote. "I worked very hard since I came to Canada 48 years ago. I have always been a leader. I worked for every penny I have." 

As a result of the criminal charges, Buksh retired from his independent taxi business. He now cares for his dependent wife who has suffered extreme psychiatric issues for years. 

In sentencing Buksh to seven-months in jail, Justice Sanderman noted the toll it would take on his wife. 

"She's much more dependent upon you than most spouses are who come before the court," Sanderman said. "But I can't keep you out of jail just because she's dependent upon you. You're facing consequences for your conduct." 

He also noted that Buksh's age will put him at a disadvantage when he's incarcerated. 

"Jail is going to be very difficult for you," Sanderman said. "Most people in provincial institutions are young kids compared to you." 

Buksh was led to cells without being given a chance to say good-bye to his wife who was sitting in the courtroom gallery.