“Have a good stay, George,” shouted the man, before adding an obscene comment about Smith becoming a target for abuse himself while incarcerated.
He then stormed out of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook.
At least two more of the 13 victims, who came forward with their stories of being sexually abused as young boys at the hands of Smith, were in the courtroom Thursday.
Those two men were more reserved in their reaction to Justice William Goodridge’s decision to sentence Smith to 11 years in prison, minus the little more than a year Smith has already served in custody. Smith, 75, entered guilty pleas to all 41 of the charges laid against him, though Goodridge did enter stays on three of those charges before the sentencing.
The offences happened when Smith was a parish priest in several western Newfoundland communities and on trips to the mainland between 1969 and 1989.
One victim, who forgave Smith when he had a chance to give his victim impact statement in open court two weeks ago, said 11 years was what he would have given Smith.
“What the judge thought of was exactly what I had thought of myself before I came here,” said the man.
He also agreed with Goodridge’s comments that the conviction and sentencing of an accused person can sometimes help the victim’s healing process. Although relieved, the man said he is not about to start forgetting what Smith did to him.
“I will continue to follow his case,” he said. “If there is a time when parole comes about, I would like to be involved in having some say in it. I will definitely attend the parole hearings.”
The other victim who attended Thursday’s sentencing said he has no intentions of condemning Smith. Nor did he take exception to the victim who blurted out his pent-up emotions in the courtroom as Smith was led away.
“I’m better than that, and I’ve always felt it was best to let the courts decide his fate and let me move ahead and continue to heal,” said that man. “I’m not going to allow this to change the good person I know I am. I’m finally free and no longer a prisoner of shame and betrayal. It’s a long road ahead but the journey is finally started.”
It was 40 years before this victim told anyone about how Smith would kneel at his bedside to pray, only to end up preying on the boy by reaching under the covers to touch him. He decided to come forward with his horror story of abuse after being shocked to hear on the news in late 2011 that Smith had been charged with abusing other boys.
He said knowing he was not the only person to have suffered the same traumatic experiences makes it a little easier to deal with the ongoing pain.
“It’s not the best connection to have with somebody, but at least it’s something you can relate to,” he said. “They can look at you and say, ‘I understand,’ and they do.”
“I’m not going to allow this to change the good person I know I am. I’m finally free and no longer a prisoner of shame and betrayal. It’s a long road ahead but the journey is finally started.” - Victim of George Ansel Smith
In his decision, Goodridge called Smith’s actions — which ranged from fondling to anal and oral intercourse — “abhorrent, abominable, cruel and despicable,” and said the impact he has had on the lives of all of his victims is “immeasurable and ongoing.”
Crown attorney Trina Simms had asked Goodridge to give Smith between nine and 13 years in prison, while defence lawyer Tom Williams asked for between seven and nine years.
Some of the case law on which Simms based her submission on sentencing involved Christian Brothers convicted in relation to the infamous Mount Cashel Orphanage sex abuse scandal. Between 1989 and 1993, nine Christian Brothers received prison terms ranging from one to 13 years for physically and sexually assaulting young boys living at the orphanage.
While Smith’s assaults never involved the beatings suffered by some of the Mount Cashel victims, some of whom were abused on a daily basis, Goodridge said Smith’s case did warrant a sentence at the higher range of those from the Mount Cashel cases cited by Simms.
“Mr. Smith’s crimes are serious, involve more victims and result in more convictions than any of the offenders from the Mount Cashel Orphanage cases ... Although Mr. Smith has mitigating factors not present in many of the Mount Cashel cases, I find that the aggravating factors significantly outweigh the mitigating factors,” Goodridge said.
Each of the offences committed by Smith warranted consecutive sentences of a year or more, noted the judge. Even after considering concurrent sentences for multiple offences against each victim, Goodridge said the total still added up to more than 30 years if each set of concurrent sentences was to be served consecutively.
That is why he had to shape a cumulative sentence that was proportionate to other cases and not unduly harsh.
“It falls squarely in the range the Crown had asked for and we’re satisfied it is consistent with similar cases from across the country,” Simms said of the sentencing decision.
Williams said his client had been expecting a lengthy sentence and never expected any leniency because of his age. He said Smith has been remorseful from the beginning, having surrendered himself to being held in custody at the earliest time he could, and entering guilty pleas to the charges without disputing the allegations against him.
“He was anticipating that he would be given a lengthy sentence and he’s quite prepared to serve it for the wrongs that he has done,” said Williams.