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Retired western Newfoundland Catholic priest George Smith jailed again for sex crimes

Retired Catholic priest George Smith arrives at provincial court in Corner Brook earlier this week to be sentenced for indecently assaulting an altar boy nearly 40 years ago.
Retired Catholic priest George Smith arrives at provincial court in Corner Brook earlier this week to be sentenced for indecently assaulting an altar boy nearly 40 years ago. - Gary Kean

The victim impact statement filed in the sex abuse case of George Ansel Smith was gripping.

“I haven’t had the chance to live yet, I’ve only existed," read the words of the man who was abused as a boy by the Roman Catholic priest.

Smith, 79, was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison earlier this week after pleading guilty to the indecent assault of the altar boy he took under his wing in western Newfoundland between 1978 and 1980.

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In 2013, Smith was sentenced to serve 11 years in prison for the systematic abuse of 13 other children during a roughly 20-year period that began in 1969 when he served as a parish priest in western Newfoundland.

That sentence came after Smith pleaded guilty to 38 offences, including 23 counts of indecent assault, seven counts of sexual assault and eight charges of assault.

He was granted day parole in late 2015 and was released on full parole in July 2016.

Smith was sentenced by Judge Wayne Gorman in provincial court in Corner Brook this week for the additional count of indecent assault he was charged with in November 2016.

In a summary of facts read into the record by Crown attorney Brenda Duffy, the court was told the boy was between 11 and 14 years old when he was abused by Smith. Smith would invite the boy to stay at his home overnight and would engage in fondling and masturbation as the two shared a bed.

The victim, who said he told no one about the abuse until June 2016, also reported that Smith would give him money and let him drive his car as ways to entice him.

The victim impact statement he provided the court describes the powerful impact these incidents and memories have had on him.

“I can’t help but sometimes feel that my chance to have a normal childhood, and somewhat of a normal life, was taken from me,” he wrote, adding that it has been difficult for him to trust others or build close intimate relationships.

The man recounted how the flood of memories came rushing back years later when he returned home from mainland Canada for his father’s funeral to unexpectedly find Smith visiting at his family home.

When he left the province after the funeral, the man wound up spending two weeks in a hospital following an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

“...Seeing him that day in my family’s home sitting with my mom was a huge trigger for me and the emotions felt so overwhelming, that all I could think of was to die.”
The man attributed the way he has lived his life to the sexual abuse he suffered. He has lived mostly alone and never pursued having his own family, which he now regrets. The impact has cost him employment, which has created financial problems that have led to stress-induced physical issues.

“...What he decided to do with his hands definitely didn’t put me on the right path.”
The man hopes coming forward and seeking justice for the abuse done to him as a child will start a journey of healing for him.

“It feels as though I have been locked away as a prisoner for almost 40 years, in a prison of my own, a prison built with his hands,” he wrote. “I also feel that after finally remembering what was done to me as a child, I am finally being given a chance to escape from this prison.”

 

Sentencing details

Crown attorney Brenda Duffy had asked Gorman to sentence Smith to 6-12 months in prison.

Smith’s defence counsel, John Noseworthy argued it would not be appropriate to put Smith back in prison and that this matter should have been dealt with when he was sentenced for the other similar crimes in 2013. He also noted that Smith did not have a prior criminal record at the time these offences took place.

Noseworthy suggested the sentence for this offence could be served under house arrest.

Gorman, who told both Duffy and Noseworthy in open court that he thought the Crown’s suggested range of sentence was too low, said in his written decision on the sentencing that Noseworthy’s reference to Smith having no prior record at the time rings hollow in light of the fact he was in the midst of purposely abusing numerous boys at the time.

In a pre-sentence report Smith indicates that, while he feels guilty for having abused children, he wished this latest victim had come forward earlier so all the offences could have been dealt with together.

The judge indicated in his written judgment that Smith could have admitted there was another victim when he entered his guilty pleas to the initial slew of charges against him in 2013.

Further, he said blaming this victim for waiting until he was personally ready to come forward constitutes a perverse form of reasoning.

 “Mr. Smith’s comments are concerning because they illustrate little understanding on his part or remorse for his own actions and their consequences for (the victim).”

Smith, who is from Nova Scotia, was still on parole at the time of the latest charge against him and was subject to strict conditions requiring him to not be in the presence of young people, unless accompanied by an adult, and to stay away from places where youth would be expected to congregate.

As part of the latest sentence, Smith will be included on the national sex offender registry for the rest of his life and will have another 10 years added on to the conditions that he remain away from paces where young people gather.

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