Former Saint John councillor and youth ministry leader Donnie Snook was sentenced today to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to 46 sex crimes against children.
Snook, 41, showed no emotion as he face provincial court Judge Alfred Brien on Thursday.
Some in the crowded courtroom gasped.
"Wish he had've got more," said Grace Murphy, who used to volunteer at the Chicken Noodle Club, the hot lunch program Snook ran for at-risk children as part of the Saint John Inner City Youth Ministry.
Murphy's daughter "grew up" at the club, where her late mother, who "loved" Snook, also volunteered.
"Another five, 10 [years] would have been nice, but 18 years — better than the 10 that I was hearing he may get," she said.
Eighteen years is "one of the longest sentences ever awarded in Canada" for child sex abuse, Crown prosecutor Karen Lee Lamrock told reporters outside the courtroom.
She had previously asked the court to consider 21 years in prison, with no eligibility for parole until Snook serves at least half his sentence, or 10 years, whichever is less.
"I hope this will begin the healing for the victims," Lamrock said, declining further comment.
'Just is what we're looking for'
Defence lawyer Dennis Boyle, who has recommended a 12-year sentence, said he felt it was "a true and good sentence."
"I think it was appropriate, and accurate and just — and just is what we're looking for," he said.
Snook's reaction was "that it's over now," said Boyle, who spoke briefly with his client following sentencing.
"You know, he’s been waiting and waiting and waiting for this — and he’s looking forward to the treatments that he can have, and those treatments are not only with his pedophilia, but he has received no treatment whatsoever for his own abuse as a child," he said, referring to Snook's allegation that he was abused by a family friend at age 10.
During sentencing, Brien said he hopes Snook will avail himself of sex offender treatment for his "mental disorder."
He also ordered him to provide a DNA sample.
Snook will be given one-and-a-half times credit from the approximately nine months he has already spent in custody, which will knock about 13.5 months off of his sentence.
He will be eligible for parole after serving less than six years.
Brien said the aggravating factors in the case "far exceeded" the mitigating factors, and added deterrence and denunciation must be paramount in sentencing.
Brien said Snook's "grooming" of children in his trust was one of the aggravating factors in the case.
The judge also noted that Snook's "sudden and spectacular fall from grace has had a profound impact on the community."
Mitigating factors considered were that Snook pleaded guilty to the charges, co-operated with police and seemed genuinely remorseful in his statement during a sentencing hearing in August.
Risk of reoffending
A pre-sentence report indicated Snook's risk of reoffending falls within the high end of moderate range.
Snook pleaded guilty in May to the charges, which include sexual assault, sexually touching a minor while in a position of trust, making child pornography and extortion.
The offences date back to 2001 and involve 17 boys as young as five years old.
Snook has been in custody since his arrest in January and will be given time-and-a-half credit against his 18-year sentence for that time served.
Snook is also facing four child exploitation charges in Newfoundland and Labrador.
For more details from the sentencing, see CBC's live blog from the courtroom, below: