Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ex-pastor gets 18 months for sex crimes

Ex-pastor gets 18 months for sex crimes
Published Saturday June 19th, 2010
The Bugle-Observer

WOODSTOCK - A former St. John River Valley pastor convicted of two sex crimes was sentenced to 16 months behind bars Friday.

Enlarge Photo The Bugle-ObserverFormer pastor Fred Hanson is seen in a file photo from earlier this year. A judge sentenced him Friday to 18 months in jail for two sex crimes against a minor. Fred Hanson, 61, appeared in the Court of Queen's Bench for a sentencing hearing on one count each of sexual exploitation and sexual interference.

Hanson was convicted by a jury in May. The counts stemmed from incidents between May 2006 and December 2007 while he was the pastor at the Plaster Rock Free Will Baptist Church.

He was acquitted of one charge of sexual interference, alleged to have occurred between Sept. 1-30, 2007, and one count of sexual exploitation, alleged to have occurred between Nov. 1-30, 2007.

Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel and defence counsel Robert Digdon made a joint submission on sentence, suggesting 18 months minus two months for time spent in pre-sentencing custody.

Justice Terrence Morrison accepted the submission and sentenced Hanson to 16 months in a provincial jail on each count, to be served concurrently.

Prior to sentencing, the victim read a victim-impact statement to the court. She said her life had been normal until the incidents.

"He (Hanson) did something to me that changed my life forever," she said.

She said she became angry and confused and began lashing out at her family. She also described having suicidal thoughts.

She said Hanson betrayed the trust she had placed in him as her pastor.

"I began to question if there was a God and if there was, why would he let this happen to me," she said. "Church was supposed to be a refuge and a safe place and Fred Hanson took that away from me."

The victim's mother also read a victim-impact statement to the court. She said she had difficulty knowing how to handle the idea a pastor she had known most of her life could sexually abuse her daughter.

She also said it had been difficult to hear her daughter say she wanted to kill herself.

"I am her mother and I failed to protect her," she said.

Roussel said primary consideration in sentencing had to be given to denunciation, especially given the age of the victim, who was 13 at the time of the first incident.

Roussel did acknowledge the good things Hanson had done in his life as a pastor.

"I will not say all his good deeds should be wiped out by what he did," Roussel said. "But he has to answer for what he did."

Digdon said his client never had a negative thing to say about his accuser and never succumbed to self-pity.

When given the opportunity to address the court, Hanson only said he respected the court and was prepared to accept whatever sentence Morrison imposed.

Morrison referred to case law that concurred with the joint submission and said the range of sentence in similar cases was typically eight months to two years.

Morrison also agreed with Roussel's statement that Hanson's good work shouldn't be ignored.

But Morrison also pointed to the impact the incident had on the victim and her family.

Referring to her victim-impact statement, Morrison said the victim had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, engaged in self-destructive behaviour, had been hospitalized several times, had missed long periods of school, all of which she attributed to the actions of Hanson.

The victim had said she lost most of her teenage years, a time she felt should have been happy for her, and Morrison agreed.

"A time that ought to have been an oasis of carefree youth has instead been turned into a desert of pain and despair," Morrison said.

Following the jail term, Hanson will be on probation for two years. During his probation, Hanson is to have no contact with the victim, the two other complainants, or their families. He also won't be permitted in the company of females under the age of 18 unless accompanied by a third party.

Hanson will also be required to comply with the sex offender registry for a period of 20 years.

Orders respecting DNA samples and firearms prohibitions were not made, as they'd been imposed by Justice Paulette Garnett when she sentenced Hanson on unrelated charges in February.

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