NEWS

Hearing adjourned for man convicted of sex crimes in Thailand

10/01/2012 12:34 EDT | Updated 12/01/2012 05:12 EST
A B.C. judge today adjourned a hearing for convicted child sex offender Christopher Neil until Wednesday morning, following his arrest last week in Vancouver.

Neil appeared briefly in the courtroom in Richmond on Monday morning. He will remain in custody pending the hearing on Wednesday, when the Crown is expected to ask the judge to impose conditions on his release.

The 37-year-old returned to Canada on Friday, after serving five years in a Thai prison for sexually assaulting two young boys in Thailand.

Neil was the subject of a massive international manhunt after police used computers to unscramble a digital image of his face posted online.

The RCMP arrested Neil as he stepped off the plane at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, even though they say he has served his time and won't face further charges.

The RCMP's Integrated Child Exploitation unit obtained a warrant for Neil's arrest under a rarely used section of the Criminal Code that allows arrest if someone's action causes fear of sexual offences to anyone under age 16.

Now they will be aiming to use the same law to monitor his movements in order to protect the public, according to Cpl. Mathias Van Laer RCMP.

"It is true that he has not committed any crimes here in Canada. However, he is back here and we have to deal with the presence. We can't ignore what he has done in the past," said Van Laer.

"I don't think that people would be surprised to hear that we have an interest as a police force to make sure that that kind of behavior is curbed."

It is possible the judge could impose a curfew on Neil, restrict his internet access, block his contact with children, or even require him to wear an ankle monitor. He will also likely be put on Canada's National Sex Offender Registry.

Convicted B.C. child sex tourist Donald Bakker had similar conditions imposed after he was released from prison this spring.

Maple Ridge residents concerned

Lawyer Richard Mackin says while the legal measures may seem unusual since Neil has not been convicted of a crime in Canada, similar kinds of preventive criminal law have been around in Canada for a long time.

"These sections are newer but there have been general provisions for preventative peace bonds for over 100 years.... I am sure many Canadians would support the idea of protecting their communities."

Mounties say it's unclear where the former Maple Ridge resident will be living in Canada, but residents of the community say they are concerned.

"I'll have to make sure I am watching my kids a lot, that's all," said Jason Kuznak.

"Like anything I guess — you never know. He might be better now and not do it, but if he has done it once, he could do it again, so it's a little bit scary."

Beyond Borders head cites 'risk of recidivism'

Resident David Hildebrant shared similar concerns.

"It doesn't matter where in the world you commit that kind of offence, once you do, you should be on world watch or whatever you want to call it, because that kind of thing is unacceptable."

Rosalind Prober, the president of Beyond Borders, an anti-child sexploitation group, agrees with the residents' concerns and says putting conditions on Neil's release is important.

"Pedophiles aren't individuals who can't cure themselves. They can control themselves if they feel like it," said Prober.

"First of all, he should never have any access to the internet whatsoever.... I'm not saying he shouldn't have his rights. I'm making the case why this man should be held under police view for as long as possible because of the risk of recidivism."

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