Nfld. & Labrador

Full parole for former priest, 4 years into 11-year sentence

A former Roman Catholic priest on Newfoundland's west coast who pleaded guilty to 38 charges of sexual and indecent assaults, has been granted full parole after serving just over a third of his sentence.

George Ansel Smith pleaded guilty to 38 charges in 2013.

George Ansel Smith pleaded guilty to 23 counts of indecent assault, 7 counts of sexual assault and 8 counts of assault with intent. (CBC)

A former Roman Catholic priest on Newfoundland's west coast who pleaded guilty to abusing more than a dozen boys between the ages of eight and 13 has been granted full parole after serving just over one-third of his sentence.

George Ansel Smith was sentenced in March 2013 to 11 years in jail, with credit for a year spent in custody, after pleading guilty to 23 counts of indecent assault, seven counts of sexual assault and eight counts of assault with intent. 

The majority of his offences happened in communities around western Newfoundland between 1969 and 1989. 

"Mr. Smith's crimes are serious, involve more victims, and result in more convictions than any of the offenders from the Mount Cashel Orphanage cases," said Supreme Court Judge William Goodridge at the time of sentencing. 

On July 7, 2016 the Parole Board of Canada granted Smith, now almost 80-years-old, full parole, saying he is at a low risk to re-offend.

The board, which had granted Smith day parole in January, said Smith had been "respectful of his release conditions" and that he had "participated in in leave privileges without any diffculty."

Not enough, says abuse survivor

Gemma Hickey, chair of Pathways Foundation, a group that aims to address gaps in service for men and women who suffered abuse from those within religious institutions, isn't happy that Smith was released.

"It's just another example of how victims don't get justice. As a victim, we serve a life sentence. We never get rid of this."

Sexual abuse survivor Gemma Hickey says victims "serve a life sentence" and questioned Smith's early release from prison. (Glenn Payette)

Hickey, who was abused by clergy, thinks four years of jail time isn't enough for the crimes committed by Smith.

"I'm lucky enough not to have an addiction. I've not gotten angry and resorted to a life of crime. Some of the people that I talked to who have been abused by priests and Christian Brothers are in jail and they are struggling and their families are struggling. When I compare it to that, is [Smith's parole] fair?"

Strict conditions

While on parole, Smith isn't allowed to be in the presence of men under 18 unless an adult is present who knows his criminal history, and there's written approval from his parole supervisor.

He also can't own a computer or any technology that would give him unsupervised access to the internet and since he used alcohol to groom some victims, he isn't allowed to drink, purchase or possess alcohol. 

Smith will be under supervision until his full sentence ends February 23, 2023 and could end up back in prison if he breaches his parole conditions. 

According to the parole board, he has temporary housing and is on a waiting list for a senior's apartment, in an undisclosed location.

with files from Glenn Payette