New Brunswick

Child sex offender Donnie Snook seeks prison leave for 'personal development'

Convicted sex offender Donnie Snook is seeking approval from his prison warden for an escorted temporary absence for "personal development purposes."

His escorted trip to Newfoundland to attend father's funeral in March cost more than $15,000

Correctional Service Canada recently spent more than $15,000 on an escorted temporary absence for Donnie Snook, pictured here in a Corner Brook, N.L., courtroom in 2013. (CBC)

Convicted sex offender Donnie Snook is seeking approval from his prison warden for an escorted temporary absence for "personal development purposes."

That's what it says in the April 4 letter from Correctional Services Canada that was sent to the parent of one of Snook's 17 young male victims in Saint John.

According to the notice, Snook's parole officer has started developing potential release plans.

"Blind rage" is how the parent described their initial reaction.

CBC News has agreed not to identify the parent by name or gender.

A publication ban prevents the release of any information that would reveal the victims' identities.

However, a partly redacted version of the letter was shared by the parent for a period of about 12 hours on social media where Tammy Calvin read it and was outraged.

"What he did in Saint John and what he did to these kids should never be forgiven," said the former north end community activist.

What is wrong with the Canadian justice system when a pedophile has more rights than kids, more rights than victims?- Tammy Calvin, citizen

Calvin said it's appalling to learn from CBC News that Snook's escorted trip to his father's funeral in St. John's, N.L., in March cost taxpayers as much as $15,000.

She's convinced that's far more money than any single one of Snook's victims received to cover counselling.

There is no mention of victim restitution in provincial court Judge Alfred Brien's written decision on his reasons for sentencing Snook to 18 years incarceration after Snook pleaded guilty to 46 charges involving child exploitation, including sexual assault, sexually touching a minor while in a position of trust, making child pornography and extortion.

At the time of his arrest, Snook was a Saint John city councillor and youth pastor and ran a popular hot lunch program for inner-city children. (CBC)

Police found hundreds of child pornography images in Snook's Martha Avenue home that were saved on his laptop, an external memory drive and a memory card.

The judge noted the large collection contained images created by the accused and in which Snook appeared or his voice could be heard.

"What is wrong with the Canadian justice system when a pedophile has more rights than kids, more rights than victims?" asked Calvin, who said she knew Snook for 28 years.

For part of that time, Snook served as a city councillor and ran the Chicken Noodle Club lunch program for disadvantaged youth, where he gained access to some of his victims.

Escort could be a volunteer

Snook's psychological assessment said he met diagnostic criteria for pedophilia and that his preferred age range is between eight and 12 years of age.

Citing privacy legislation, Correctional Service Canada would not address any questions about Snook's application nor confirm that one existed.

"Generally speaking, escorted temporary absence is a release in which an offender, either alone or as a member of a group, leaves the institution accompanied by one or several CSC designated escorts," explained spokesperson Jean-Paul Lorieau by email.

A designated escort could be a volunteer, he added.

The letter provides no details about what kind of personal development Snook is seeking.

Access to rehabilitation services important

However, the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association does, in general, support access to rehabilitative services for inmates.

"The vast majority of people who commit crimes, even horrendous crimes, they're released into the community," said Edmonton lawyer Amanda Hart-Dowhun, the association's director.

"And when they're released, what we want, we want people who are set up to succeed.

"We want people to receive treatment for their issues that have led them into prison in the first place."

Snook was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, 13 counts of sexual interference, 10 counts of inviting a youth to touch him, four counts of child luring, two counts of sexual exploitation and one count of extortion — inducing a child by threats to distribute or post a naked picture of himself.

He was also convicted of nine counts of making child pornography, two counts of possession child pornography and two counts of making child pornography available.

The charges spanned 12 years and involved boys as young as five.

Snook is also serving an additional three months after he pleaded guilty in November 2013 to child exploitation charges involving a boy under the age of 14 in his native Newfoundland and Labrador, dating back to the mid-1990s.

If not paroled by March 15, 2025, Snook will receive a statutory release, having served two-thirds of his sentence.