New Brunswick

Donnie Snook's appeal of 18-year sentence on sex charges dismissed

Former Saint John city councillor and former youth pastor Donnie Snook has lost the appeal of his 18-year sentence on child sex abuse charges.

Crown's cross-appeal on parole eligibility and credit for time served also rejected

Former Saint John city councillor and former youth pastor Donnie Snook has lost the appeal of his 18-year sentence on child sex abuse charges.

Donnie Snook, pictured here at an earlier court appearance in Newfoundland, argued unsuccessfully that his 18-year sentence is "unreasonable." (CBC)
A cross-appeal by the Crown on Snook's credit for time served while awaiting trial and parole eligibility was also dismissed Wednesday by a three-judge New Brunswick Court of Appeal panel.

Snook, 42, had filed a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeal last November, calling his sentence "unreasonable and in excess of the appropriate range in all the circumstances."

Snook is in prison in Mission, B.C., and did not attend Wednesday's hearing, but his lawyer, James Matheson, argued on his behalf.

He said the trial judge had stated the range of sentence for similar crimes in Canada had been from nine to 18 years.

Matheson said Snook had disclosed offences that may have never otherwise come before the court, and he should have been given credit for that.

He said 15 years would be an appropriate sentence.

Crown prosecutor Cameron Gunn, however, argued that the sentencing judge was not restricted by the nine-to-18 year range.

'Perhaps no precedent for this level of offence'

One of the appeal panel judges commented there was "perhaps no precedent for this level of offence."

Snook, who ran a hot lunch program for under-privileged children, was sentenced in October 2013 after pleading guilty to 46 sex crimes against children, including sexual assault, making child pornography and extortion.

The crimes spanned 12 years and involved 17 male victims, some as young as five years old.

Snook is serving an additional three months for three other child exploitation charges stemming from his native Newfoundland and Labrador.

He was sentenced in December after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a boy under the age of 14 while he was a pastor with the now-defunct Salvation Army church in Mount Moriah in the mid-1990s.

The Crown's cross-appeal in the Saint John case sought to increase the time before Snook becomes eligible for parole.

Crown prosecutor Karen Lee Lamrock, who handled the trial, had recommended the judge consider a sentence of 21 years in prison, with no eligibility for parole until Snook had served at least half his sentence, or 10 years, whichever was less.

But provincial court Judge Alfred Brien ruled Snook eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence — six years.

That cross-appeal was dismissed leaving the original sentence of 18 years with parole eligibility after six.

The Crown was also seeking to appeal the amount of credit Snook was given for time served in pre-trial custody.

Brien gave Snook 1½ times credit for the approximately nine months he had already spent behind bars, knocking about 13½ months off of his sentence.

The Crown unsuccessfully argued credit is capped at a ratio of 1-1 as a general rule and the maximum 1½ times credit should only be used when justified and the judge must explain those circumstances.

The three-judge Court of Appeal panel included justices Richard Bell, Kathleen Quigg and Bradley Green.