Priest's actions 'abhorrent, abominable, cruel and detestable'
Warning: This story contains graphic and sexually explicit details
A retired Roman Catholic priest was given an 11-year sentence in a western Newfoundland court on Thursday for sexually abusing children.
George Ansel Smith, 75, was sentenced in Supreme Court in Corner Brook for offences involving 13 children he assaulted 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 Justice William Goodridge, referring to the sexual abuse scandal at a Christian Brothers institution in St. John's.
Goodridge described Smith's actions as "abhorrent, abominable, cruel and detestable."
Smith pleaded guilty to 38 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and assault. The offences occurred largely in western Newfoundland, but also involved complainants in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He was suspended from his duties at a Prince Edward Island parish in 2010 when charges were first laid.
Court had been told that many of his victims were altar boys or children of families involved with the churches where Smith worked as a parish priest. One of the boys was a newspaper carrier, and another boy performed odd jobs around the parish church property.
In many cases, the abuse started when the victim was 12 or 13. One of the victims was eight.
Justice William Goodridge found that Smith used the same pattern repeatedly, starting with giving his victims gifts and praise.
"The gifts included money, alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, ice cream, soft drinks, pornographic videos (viewed at the offender's home), road trips, fishing trips and use of a snowmobile," Goodridge wrote in a sentencing decision released Thursday.
"Once trust and friendship were established, the offender would invite the victim to his home for a sleepover. Ten of the thirteen victims were given alcohol immediately preceding the first incident of sexual abuse. Nine of the victims were asleep or passed out and awoke to discover their first victimization by sexual assault in progress," he wrote.
"The criminal acts committed by the offender included kissing, body rubbing, genital fondling, masturbation, fellatio, anal intercourse, attempted anal intercourse, simulated intercourse between the legs and more."
In the agreed statement of facts, Smith revealed in 1992 he was treated for alcohol abuse and his sexual attraction to boys. No criminal charges were filed then, and Smith was back on the job a year later.
Smith's lawyer, Thomas Williams, said his client has expressed remorse and has come to terms that he has to pay a price.
"I appreciate fully how difficult this is on the victims and the families, but he's been very sensitive to that and I think that's been reflected in how he's conducted himself through this entire process," said Williams. "He surrendered himself into custody at the very earliest opportunity; he has pled guilty to every charge that was before the court; he has acknowledged and hasn't disputed any of the facts that have been alleged, and he is taken his punishment as given by the court," Williams said.
Crown prosecutor Trina Simms said she has had an opportunity to speak with the victims, "What we're hearing most consistently is that they're glad that it's concluded."
Ramona Roberts is a parishioner of St. Malachy Church in Kinkora, Prince Edward Island — Smith's parish for a short time before his 2010 suspension.
Roberts said some people did leave the parish after Smith was suspended.
"It was extremely shocking because of the nature of the allegations," she said. "Once the initial shock wore off, we were left with the feeling that we knew we didn't know him very well … we really felt we didn't know him very well. I think for some people, it might've been the [last] straw .... but I think for most people, we were able to put it behind us and focus on the good things," said Roberts.
"The worst of it is is that it takes away from the very good work that's happening, by and large, in most parishes."
On Thursday, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. George's made the following statement:
"Today, George Smith was sentenced for crimes of sexual misconduct from his time of ministry as a priest in the former Diocese of St. George's.
We feel intensely for the pain of the victims, their families and all those who have been affected by these crimes and we rely fully on the justice of our Canadian legal system in prosecuting such criminial behaviour.
Now that the criminal trial is completed, the church will proceed with the appropriate canonical penal process. Let us all join together in praying for God's healing grace for the victims, their families and all those who have been wounded by these crimes."
Smith will receive one-for-one credit for the year that he has already spent in jail. The sentence was in the range recommended by the Crown.
Goodridge stayed three charges.