Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer was convicted of four counts of child pornography. His sentencing hearing began in Chilliwack provincial court on Sept. 1, 2021. (File)

Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer was convicted of four counts of child pornography. His sentencing hearing began in Chilliwack provincial court on Sept. 1, 2021. (File)

Crown counsel calls Chilliwack church pastor an ‘online pedophile’ for his child porn use

Judge asked to hand down 2 consecutive terms of 5 years jail for John Vermeer in sentencing hearing

There is no practical difference between offenders who access and view child pornography and the pedophiles and abusers who create the illegal images and videos.

That was part of Crown counsel Teresa Mitchell-Banks’ submissions Wednesday morning on day one of the sentencing hearing for Chilliwack church pastor John Vermeer who was convicted of two counts of accessing child pornography and two counts of possessing child pornography.

READ MORE: Chilliwack church pastor found guilty of accessing of child pornography

“It is not an exaggeration to say that people who watch online child pornography are online pedophiles,” Crown counsel Mitchell-Banks said in her sentencing submissions. “He is an online predator.”

While she did not specifically outline her jail sentence request but suggested even the maximum available under the law from the time of the offences was not enough.

“Even a five-year sentence would not be proportional to some of the damage done to some of the children in these videos.”

Mitchell-Banks pointed out that in 2010 and 2015, the years of the offences for which Vermeer was convicted, the maximum sentence in the criminal code was five years. In late 2015, that was raised to 10 years so while that higher sentence is not available in the Vermeer case, Crown suggested that Judge Andrea Ormiston should consider that and that “child abuse that includes offences called child pornography is some of the most morally repugnant crimes in the entire criminal code.”

Mitchell-Banks referred in great detail to a Supreme Court of Canada decision from 2019, R. v. Friesen, that overturned an appeal court ruling, reinstating a trial judge’s more serious sentence.

While Friesen is about a violent sexual assault of a child, Mitchell-Banks went to great lengths to point out the offenders in child pornography cases may not physically touch children, but they further the sexual abuse of children by creating a demand for videos of those assaults.

And when it comes to the Friesen decision, it calls for tougher punishment of sexual violence against children.

“[Vermeer’s] collection of child pornography is horrific in its depravity and its violence,” she said. “If sentences are not proportionate to the gravity and the harm done, the criminal justice system could be undermined in the eyes of the community.”

Mitchell-Banks also referred to the dramatic uptick in recent years in the number of child pornography incidents reported to police, according to police statistics.

“When you sentence Mr. Vermeer, you must bare in mind the numbers, the increasing numbers of child pornography complaints to the police.”

She said that across Canada there were 8,877 reports to police in 2019 up 28 per cent to 11,055 in 2020.

“A child is a child, they are of equal value. You should be sentencing him as though they were children in Chilliwack, in the Lower Mainland, in Canada.”

Mitchell-Banks asked Judge Ormiston for the maximum sentence of five years and suggested that there should be consecutive sentences for the offences in 2010 and 2015 as they were discrete events.

Vermeer’s lawyer had not yet presented his submissions before The Progress went to press Wednesday afternoon. However, prior to the hearing his lawyer Michael Klein told Mitchell-Banks he would be asking for a sentence in the range of eight to 10 months.

See www.theprogress.com for more on the sentencing hearing Thursday (Sept. 2).

RELATED: Chilliwack church pastor takes the witness stand in child porn trial


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