Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Canada tightens predator laws aimed at sex tourism

Retired Canadian who victimized many Cuban children provided the legislative impetus

Guadalajara -
Canada says it will update its criminal laws to protect foreign children from Canadian sexual predators, by opening up databases containing detailed information on offenders who present a high risk of pedophilic behavior

The announcement, reported in Toronto and redacted by the Latin press, follows last summer's conviction of notorious Toronto predator James McTurk, who became the first Canadian to be convicted of committing sex crimes against Cuban children while vacationing there.

McTurk, a 78 year old retired postal worker, admitted in June that he had had sought out children as young as three for sex. Toronto investigators said McTurk traveled to the Caribbean island over two decades. He pleaded guilty to manufacturing child pornography and indecent liberties with a minor.

According to the Toronto Star, McTurk was the first Canadian ever to be investigated and charged by local police in that city for what the paper called "the unusual charge of sexual tourism." Only five other Canadians have been convicted of the offense. McTurk was the first whose acts occurred on Cuban soil, where pedophilia is virtually ignored by local authorities according to most reports. Canadian faces life sentence in Cuban sex tourism case.

Under current Canadian law, only law enforcement officials can access sexual predator databases. But they will be open for public inspection by this fall, according to today's reports.

"Public means public," said Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.

Sex offender registries have existed in the United States for many years, and most of the information in them is open to the public, including the full address of the convicted person and a mugshot array.

Under U.S. law, sex offenders in every state must register for years after their conviction, usually for at least a decade. Most American courts have upheld such laws against constitutional challenges.

The pending changes in Canadian law are significant, where privacy considerations have historically trumped the public's right to know the whereabouts of sexual predators and details of the crimes for which they were convicted.

Even Canadian immigration officials have been unable to access criminal histories, allowing citizens to leave the country for sex tourism and return undetected. Sex offender registration and database accessibility laws in the U.S. make foreign travel by a convicted American pedophile more likely to come under official scrutiny, especially if the destination country is well known for child sex tourism.

Referring to weaknesses in the current Canadian system, Prime Minister Steven Harper said Monday, "All that's going to change." When the new laws take effect, anyone will be able to inspect pedophile criminal history details.

Moreover, a convicted sex offender who plans to travel abroad will be required to notify authorities in advance and file a detailed itinerary with Canadian authorities, who will transmit it to law enforcement officials in the destination country. Current law imposes such a requirement only if the offender plans to be out of the country for more than seven days - easily enough time for a week's stay in Cuba.

In the case of McTurk, court records show he had been convicted twice previously for the possession and manufacture of child pornography. Toronto police say he traveled to Cuba 31 times between 2009 and 2012, having sexual contact with minor females on each occasion.

McTurk was never investigated or prosecuted by Havana authorities. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police says the island, 90 miles south of the Florida Keys, has become a leading sex tourism destination for foreign travelers. The Star and the Miami Herald reported on the topic earlier this year.

The chief of the Toronto Police Dept.'s Child Exploitation Unit, which investigated and arrested James McTurk, said this week, "This is definitely a step in the right direction. It's a relief to hear the federal government is finally going to undertake measures which will protect foreign children from our own predators. Just passing such laws will have a deterrent effect, especially given the heightened public awareness of the problem as a result of this case."

A Canadian attorney who cofounded Beyond Borders, a group which advocates for children's rights worldwide, praised Ottawa's announcement, but added, "It's frustrating that his has taken so long. Who knows how many sexual predators have taken advantage of deficits in the system for years."

There are at least 30,000 Canadians on the national registry of sex abusers, and another 16,000 on a database maintained by Ontario, according to press reports.

Sept. 10 - Former San Francisco millionaire, philanthropist dies in Vallarta prison, 13 years after pedophilia charges filed
June 19 - "Dangerous" American pedophile nabbed in Playa del Carmen
Feb. 15 - American expat murdered in Mérida had sex with 17 year old boy just before he died

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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