Local man sentenced for possessing child pornography

A Prince George man was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in jail for possessing tens of thousands of images and hundreds of videos depicting child pornography.

James Lee Smit, 39, must also serve three years probation upon completing the time in jail under the terms provincial court judge Susan Mengering issued during a hearing at the courthouse.

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It was at the top end of the range presented by Crown counsel, who said Smit would have to serve at least a year to give him enough time to take the sex offender treatment program offered at Ford Mountain Correctional Centre.

Defence counsel had suggested nine months, arguing Smit could attend a treatment program while on probation.

But Mengering said she had to give emphasis to denunciation and deterrence.

Smit was arrested in June 2016 after the RCMP's internet child exploitation unit traced images found on a file sharing service to his computer. Investigators subsequently found more than 100,000 images and more than 300 videos, a significant number depicting children with adults.

Smit cooperated with police and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. He also has mosaic down syndrome and suffers from mental health problems.

But he lives independently, manages his own finances and knew what he was doing was wrong and illegal, it was noted. Moreover, he had previously been convicted of sexually assaulting a woman for which he was sentenced to a two-year conditional sentence order followed by three years probation.

Smit told the author of a pre-sentence report that he has had a long-standing interest in child pornography and has admitted to having fantasies involving sex with children but said he had not acted on them because he does not want to harm anyone.

But Mengering noted the courts regard possessing child pornography as a "disturbing crime of great magnitude."

"The courts must deter everybody who is interested in acquiring child pornography. Those persons, including Mr. Smit, must be clearly, clearly and unequivocally told that this is not a minor or victimless crime. It is reprehensible, it targets the most vulnerable members of our society, that being our children."

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