A South Surrey man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography has been sentenced to nine months in jail.
Douglas Wayne Bowers learned his fate Monday in Surrey Provincial Court.
The penalty was imposed more than four years after his arrest, which followed an extensive investigation by the RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation Team into a man police described as “a prolific distributor of child sex-abuse images and video online.”
In his reasons for sentence, Judge Michael Hicks said he considered Bowers’ lack of insight and understanding into the offences, in addition to hundreds of videos and photographs found in Bowers’ home. Hicks noted he also assessed Crown counsel’s assertion that the 64-year-old has “been manipulative through the court proceedings.”
The case faced several delays over the years, for reasons including Bower’s cited health issues and changes in lawyers, as well as his application to change his plea to not guilty in March 2012 – a request he withdrew five weeks later.
Hicks outlined each delay in detail, noting he wanted to ensure the reasons the case took so long were on the record.
Bowers was arrested in June 2009, after a search warrant uncovered child pornography on two laptop computers and a USB drive, along with printed materials detailing child sexual abuse, in his rented home in the 16200-block of 40 Avenue.
A collage Bowers admitted to making – using images of a teenager he had befriended through Facebook, superimposed on photographs of other women’s bodies and male genitalia – was also found.
Hicks found Bowers “violated a position of trust” when he downloaded the teen’s Facebook photos and defaced them.
In 2010, Bowers pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.
In a previous interview with Peace Arch News, Bowers maintained he had accidentally downloaded child images while attempting to access adult pornography. He denied any intention of viewing the videos and images, or making any Google searches for that material.
Those claims were contradicted by RCMP experts who testified that a number of the videos and images had been viewed more than once, and that online searches were made using keywords for child pornography.
The downloads began Sept. 20, 2008 and continued up until the day before Bowers was arrested, the court heard.
The material Bowers downloaded “depict children clearly under 18 years of age engaged in all manner of sexual activity,” Hicks said. One of the videos includes bestiality, the judge said.
Hicks said 253 videos and 1,205 images were found to meet the definition of child pornography.
A court-ordered psychological report found Bowers was a “moderate risk” to reoffend. The writer noted Bowers told her “he does not feel guilty because he ‘didn’t do it on purpose.’”
“He appears to have little, if any, insight as to why he sought out this material,” Hicks said. “As a result, his specific deterrence remains a sentencing concern.”
In outlining Bowers’ background, Hicks noted the impact of the 2001 death of the carpenter’s son on his emotional and mental health; and Bowers’ own claim of being sexually abused as a child at ages 10 and 15.
Hicks noted he heard no evidence that Bowers had acted on recommendations since the 2011 report to undergo counselling.
At the time of Bowers’ offence, the minimum sentence for possession of child pornography was a 45-day term. While Parliament has since enacted changes that call for a minimum one-year term, Hicks said he was bound by the rules in place at the time of arrest.
He imposed two years probation and ordered Bowers to submit a DNA sample and to comply with the requirements of the sex offender registry for 10 years.
While Bowers had asked, through his lawyer, to start his sentence on Friday in order to work “so that when he comes out he won’t be homeless,” Hicks agreed with Crown Keith Kinash that he had more than a month since the sentencing hearing to get his affairs in order.
“The whole issue with the prospect that you would go into custody was well-known,” Hicks said. “The sentence commences now.”
Crown had requested a sentence of one year in prison, followed by two years probation; defense argued for a 90- day intermittent term to be served on weekends.
Defense counsel Gail Barnes said outside court that she could not comment on whether the sentence would be appealed.