(This column was published in the North Shore News on Dec. 31, 1997)
Drop the pedophile deals
By Leo Knight
AS the new year rapidly approaches, it is customary to reflect on the year just passed and look ahead to the coming months.
Somewhere in there, one hopes, the lessons of the previous year's failures and disappointments will lead to an improvement on past efforts. A wiser man than I once said, "Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat its failures."
As I contemplate the outgoing year, I am struck with a very singular thought resulting from an extraordinary and nagging suspicion.
I have written in past months on the apparently easy ride pedophiles and purveyors of kiddie porn are getting through the justice system. John Michael Lewis, William Bennest and Richard West are all examples of cases that outraged and infuriated me just on the basis of how they tippy-toed their way past the lady with the blindfold and scales.
The new year starts off with the pending trial of John Robin Sharpe, currently charged in Vancouver and Surrey with making, possessing for the purpose of distributing and related charges concerning alleged child pornography. Because the case is still before the courts, I cannot discuss the specifics of evidence against him.
Last week, however, Sharpe showed his colors in a letter to the Vancouver Sun published in the Dec. 15 edition. In his letter, Sharpe said: "There is no clear evidence that pornography harms children, although it may be disturbing to some at the time."
"With affluence," he continued, "privacy concerns and sexophobic morality, children no longer casually assimilate basic sexual knowledge as they grow up. And if schools can't, and parents won't, provide adequate sex education then pornography becomes a valuable educational resource. Libraries and the Internet, where the individual child can explore his or her interests in sex, may be the best way to learn."
It will be interesting to see if this is the basis of the defence he mounts against the charges he faces.
More interesting, however, is whether his case even gets to open court. As in the Bennest case, I'm betting a plea bargain will be arranged in order to control the specific evidence which gets placed before the court. Sources close to the investigation tell me that Sharpe was a meticulous record keeper, both of the kids in his web and of adults he dealt with. Those records are in the hands of the police. I sincerely doubt, whether through legal wrangling or backroom pressures, if those records will ever see the light of day.
The people who trade in kiddie porn and their customers are also the ones who prey on kids. The pedophile's world is quite small, so to speak. They know each other. They do business together. They help each other in times of trouble, such as when the possibility of jail surfaces for one and the resulting exposure for the other.
The more I look into these matters, the more convinced I am of that fact. Lewis, Bennest, West and Sharpe all have very influential contacts. And there are common denominators, make no mistake about that.
In my opinion, that is why, for example, Lewis was granted Canadian citizenship despite having three convictions of sexual assault on kids and outstanding warrants in Utah and California for similar offences at the time of the citizenship hearing. It is, I'd wager, why Bennest was given a sweetheart deal and the Crown went to extraordinary lengths to keep the deal secret.
I cannot fathom why the Court of Appeal came up with the decision they did in freeing West. As I discussed in this space last week, the decision is hypocritical. Logic defied must surely mean there is another answer.
Don't misunderstand me. Sharpe is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And I make no judgments about his case until all the evidence is in. The allegations are very serious indeed. This is why he should be tried in open court and all the evidence made available to assess his guilt or innocence. No deals.
Here's hoping the attorney general has learned from history. Pedophiles and child abusers are not worth protecting for any reason, especially any political reason. If he has, he will ensure no deals are done and allow the courts and the public to have an opportunity to hear the evidence and decide guilt or innocence. And I do mean, all the evidence.
But I doubt it. I suspect the new year will begin with the charges against Sharpe being stayed or else a deal will be cut. Nothing will change.
After you read this, turn and hug your children. Tell them you will protect them. God knows, based on past performance, you'll not get much help.