B.C. judge refuses bail for convicted pedophile facing more charges
Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 06:45 pm
PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. - A British Columbia man who served five years in a Thai prison for sexually assaulting boys must remain in a Canadian jail while he waits for trial on new charges of abusing children overseas.
A provincial court judge refused bail for Christopher Neil, 39, on Thursday after a nearly three-hour hearing. Details of the hearing can't be revealed because of a sweeping publication ban.
Neil faces 10 charges, half of those are related to accusations based in Southeast Asia.
RCMP have said they collected evidence abroad that the former English teacher committed sex crimes against children in Cambodia a decade ago. Neil is also accused of accessing and possessing child pornography while living in Metro Vancouver last year.
Neil's lawyer, Mark Thompson, said his client will plead not guilty.
"Given the vast resources of the Crown and the Canadian government has thrown at this, it seems daunting," Thompson said outside court. "But Mr. Neil does have an explanation, one he's looking forward to present."
Some of the charges fall under Canada's rarely-used child sex tourism laws and carry maximum penalties of 10 years imprisonment. They come one and a half years after Neil was deported back to Canada when a royal pardon granted him early release from the sentence in Thailand.
Canadian authorities sought and obtained a series of strict conditions when he returned to B.C., owing to the nature of the crimes. Neil has already been back to court for breaching the rules. He pleaded guilty to possessing devices that could access the Internet last year.
The man spent many years in Asia prior to garnering global notoriety when he became the then-subject of Interpol's largest international manhunt in 2007.
The organization released before-and-after images of a man's face obscured and then revealed by a digital swirl. The digital trick had hidden Neil's face in images displaying graphic sex abuse.
Hundreds of tips poured in. It took only 10 days to discover the Canadian citizen's identity and track him down. He was arrested, tried and found guilty of sexually assaulting two young brothers.
Neil's lawyer said he expects his client could now spend a year or longer behind bars in B.C. awaiting his next trial.
"I argued for Mr. Neil's release and I wouldn't have done so if I thought there was a public safety issue," Thompson said.
"He's not happy to be back in jail."
Neil's next court appearance, on April 15 in Richmond, B.C., relates to his earlier admission that he breached conditions. He will appear by video link.
Another hearing to decide whether he'll be tried by jury or judge alone on the new charges was set for April 24 in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Canada first enacted in 1997 laws allowing authorities on home soil to investigate and prosecute sex offenders who committed crimes abroad.
Only eight Canadian citizens have been convicted under the extra-territorial provision of the Criminal Code in that time, according to federal RCMP. The initial, landmark case stemming from crimes in 2003 brought down Donald Bakker, a B.C. man convicted of abusing young girls in Cambodia.
Graeme Illman, who attended the bail hearing, represents Ratanak International, a B.C.-based child protection agency that helps child victims of Western sex tourists in Cambodia. He said a conviction would be significant.
"It would send a very critical signal to pedophiles that they can't go to other countries to conceal these illegal acts," he said. "Authorities in Canada (will) reach beyond the territory here to hold them to account."
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