WARNING: This story contains details of child pornography which may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
CORNWALL – A city man will be spending a year behind bars, likely in protective custody at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center, after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.
Alain Vallee, 30, was sentenced in a Cornwall courtroom today (Thursday). Five members of his family were in the public gallery for the sentencing.
The sentencing phase was on shaky ground for almost a week as Judge Laurie Lacelle had reservations whether mens rea (the intent or knowledge of wrongdoing that form two parts of crime) had been nailed down based on conflicting information in a pre-sentence report (PSR). At one point, she considered throwing out Vallee’s plea, but that did not happen.
Vallee, a wiry young-looking man in a shirt and tie with a close-trim full beard and black curly hair, told the judge he understood his guilty plea and its ramifications.
Defence lawyer Bill Wade said his client has a “good stable family relationship” and they are supportive. He also cited and praised a report from a doctor at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Center showing Vallee’s risk to re-offend is low. “Here we have a young man. He is intelligent. There are no mental problems or anything like that.” Vallee has always worked and maintained a job, Wade added, though he has lost his job since this court case started.
While the Crown and defence agreed on a sentence, Wade still took issue with the mandatory minimum sentencing, introduced by the federal government in 2005.
“I always find it a risk to statutory minimums, due to the federum of judicial discretion. It does seem to be completely contrary to the individual sentencing that has become a hallmark of our judicial system,” Wade said. Vallee is a first time offender.
A constitutional challenge had been considered, Wade said, but “I wouldn’t win anything one way or the other.”
But Crown attorney Michael Purcell said Vallee had committed a “very serious offence and (it) carries a significant an ongoing impact on its victims.”
While not getting into specific details, Purcell talked about the collection – more than 300 images and videos – uncovered by investigators. “As a whole, I can indicate that the age and number of the children involved, the specific acts depicted and the high level of depravity, makes Mr. Vallee’s collection a particularity serious and offensive one.”
Purcell said Vallee’s porn collection “spanned all five categories” of child pornography: erotic posing with no sexual activity, sexual activity between children or solo masturbation by a child, non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children, penetrative sexual activity between children and adults, and sadism or bestiality.
Court heard Vallee had tried to delete the files but wasn’t able to get them all before he was caught in April 2017.
Purcell said “one of the most disturbing and tragic aspects” of child pornography is the victimization of children doesn’t stop but “each distribution and viewing of the images is a constant reminder of the complete and total violation of the child’s innocence and bodily integrity.”
The Crown attorney added that the police forensic investigation showed Vallee had actively searched for child porn, using the Google search terms “pre-teen nude,” “pre-teen hardcore” and its acronym “PTHC,” and “pre-teen models.”
Judge Laurie Lacelle agreed that one year in jail was an appropriate, “significant” sentence for someone who has never been to jail before.
“You need to understand that every time somebody downloads an image like this. Every time somebody enters a search for an image like this, it compels somebody to produce an image like this. People engage in marketplace trading of these vile images of children and they’re not acting, they’re real. Real children were victimized to produce these images.”
The judge explained the harsh sentence, even for a first time offender, is due to “the very significant harm” this type of offence has on children.
“It wasn’t confined to your private sphere and you and your computer. This had ripple effects. It will have ripple effects for these children. Once these images are created, there’s no way to get them back once they’ve been shared. So the children – they’re real live children in these images – live with the reality that they float around the world without their control, without their ability to do anything about it, in perpetuity potentially.”
In addition to his one year jail sentence, Vallee will be on probation for two years. He will have to follow a number of conditions, which include strict control on his access to the internet and also a ban for 5 years on going to places where children under 16 frequent, such as parks and recreation centers.
Vallee will be on the National Sex Offender Registry for 20 years.
Following the sentence, Vallee shook his lawyer’s hand before following the bailiff into the cell block to submit a DNA sample.