Seven years after Robin Sharpe began his arduous journey through Canada’s court system, an end is finally in sight.
On May 3 the BC Supreme Court sentenced Sharpe to four months under house arrest for two counts of possessing photos that the court calls child pornography.
Sharpe was acquitted last March on two, more serious, charges of possessing pornographic stories with the intention to distribute them. Justice Duncan Shaw ruled that Sharpe’s writings neither advocate nor counsel sex with children and therefore do not constitute child pornography.
And even if they did, they would be saved by their artistic merit, Shaw said.
But the photos are another matter. Sharpe was found guilty of possessing more than 400 photos depicting young men and boys under the age of 18 years engaged in sexual acts and displaying genitalia. According to the law, that’s child porn.
During sentencing, the Crown urged the judge to send Sharpe to jail for a year. Possessing child porn is a crime that “calls for society’s condemnation,” said prosecutor Terry Schultes. Schultes was particularly offended by Sharpe’s lack of remorse. Sharpe continues to insist that sex between adults and children can be healthy, Schultes told the court. He shows no remorse and he has sought no treatment.
In an interview, Sharpe said he does have one regret: That his constitutional challenge failed to produce any substantial changes to the Canada’s child porn laws. (In the wake of the case, the federal government has been talking about strengthening them.)
Schultes pointed to other cases where men found guilty of possessing child porn were sentenced to a year in jail; but the cases he referred to involved molestation and assault, as well.
Paul Burstein, Sharpe’s lawyer, maintained that those cases have nothing to do with his client. “There is not a scintilla of evidence that he has, in any way, offended against children,” Burstein told the court. Sharpe was found guilty of possessing child porn; not of being a paedophile.
Shaw agreed. “I should be careful to keep in mind the actual offences committed by Mr Sharpe,” he said.
Then he sentenced Sharpe to four months house arrest in his one-room apartment in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. That means Sharpe can’t leave his apartment between 4pm and 8am every day without prior approval from his supervisor; and that he will be electronically monitored to make sure he complies.
Sharpe says he expected worse. “I don’t regard the sentence as very onerous.” He says he plans to leave Vancouver as soon as the four months are up.
* Robin Perelle writes for Xtra West, Xtra’s Vancouver sibling.