Lahey pleads guilty to child porn importation charge

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Prairie Messenger

11 May 2011

By Deborah Gyapong

Canadian Catholic News
 

OTTAWA (CCN) — Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded guilty to the importation of child pornography May 4 and asked to go directly to jail, even though a date has not been set for his sentence hearing.

The former Bishop of Antigonish, N.S., faced two child porn charges, but the Crown and defence counsel agreed to drop the more serious charge of possession of child pornography for the purpose of transmission.

Lahey’s lawyer told the court there was no distribution involved.
They also agreed on a set of facts that were summarized in the courtroom, but have been sealed from the public because of the child porn content.

Det. Andrew Thompson, the Ottawa police officer who did the forensic exam of Lahey’s laptop and other electronic devices, gave brief descriptions of some of the 588 images and 60 videos he found that depicted boys as young as eight to 10 engaging in sexual acts with each other or adult males. He also found pornographic stories on the bishop’s hard drives — one running to 300 pages in length — that he categorized under five themes: mastery and slavery involving adults and young boys; humiliation of young boys; torture of young boys; sex acts between young boys; and degradation of young boys or forcing sex acts on them.
Lahey, who wore a tweed jacket, beige pants and carried a small blue bag, sat calmly in the packed courtroom in a row in front of journalists until he was granted permission to sit with his lawyers. He refused to answer questions as he entered the courthouse.

The judge said he was satisfied Lahey was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He decided against the Crown’s request for a pre-sentence report. He agreed with Lahey’s counsel that the detailed report of the forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford and other information already gathered about Lahey’s personal life was enough.

Bradford was unable to come to court May 4, so a date needs to be set for his cross-examination before sentencing will take place. Lahey’s lawyers will be in court May 26 to determine a date for a sentence hearing.

The bishop faces a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in jail and possibly up to 10 years.

“My client feels very deeply and profoundly remorseful for what he has done,” defence counsel Michael Edelson told the court May 4. He said Lahey was waiving his right to bail. “He is asking to be incarcerated this morning to signal to the court the sincerity and genuineness of his remorse.”

On Sept. 15, 2009, a Canadian Border Services (CBSA) agent flagged Lahey for a secondary search when he returned to Canada aboard a flight from London. He had been travelling alone and his passport showed he had visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Germany. When asked what he did for a living, he replied he was a priest who did missionary work, according to the statement of facts.

The agent asked him about what electronic gear he was carrying and noted how Lahey’s demeanour changed from being “calm, friendly and forthcoming,” to “nervous, quiet and resisting eye contact” when she asked him about whether he had a laptop. A preliminary inspection revealed images of young males engaged in sex acts. The Ottawa police were contacted and continued the investigation, finding several more images.

Lahey denied to the CBSA agent an interest in child pornography but admitted an attraction to young males 18 – 21, as well as to those older than that.

The bishop may face further canonical penalties. “The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors,” said a May 4 statement from the Vatican press office.

“Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures.”

The highest canonical penalty Lahey could face is dismissal from the clerical state, what used to be called defrocking, said canon lawyer Rev. Frank Morrissey. Ontologically, he remains a priest forever, but he would no longer be considered a cleric, he said.

“He could be deprived of the right to take part in any meeting of conference of bishops or an ecumenical council or a papal audience, or they could forbid him from exercising a public ministry and make that a perpetual penalty,” he said.

Further penalties will all be at the level of the Vatican, he said. “All cases of bishops reserved directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

“He could be assigned residence and not allowed to leave on his own,” he said, noting that Lahey had already resigned from his office as Antigonish bishop.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement following Lahey’s conviction condemning “all forms of sexual exploitation, especially involving minors” and said it “continues to work to prevent such behaviour and to bring healing to the victims and their families.”

“Recognizing the confusion and anger that this case has engendered among many of the faithful, we underscore our pastoral concern for those who have experienced great pain as a result of these events,” the CCCB said. “In a special way our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Diocese of Antigonish and all the Atlantic region.”

“We reiterate the Catholic Church’s long-standing condemnation of the possession, distribution and use of child pornographic images in all forms, and renew our resolve to do everything we can to promote the dignity and respect of the human person.”

Sylvia MacEachern, who runs Sylvia’s site, a blog for clerical abuse victims, and maintains an extensive data base on clerical sexual abuse in Canada, told journalists she found the courtroom proceedings “extremely disturbing.”

“I can’t understand why it took him 19 months to decide he was guilty,” she said.

She also objected to the sealing of the statement of fact.

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Bishop Lahey pleads guilty to child porn importation charge

The B.C. Catholic (Vancouver Archdiocese)
 

Bishop Raymond Lahey, 70, heads to Ottawa court May 4 where he pleads guilty to importation of child pornography. Photo by Deborah GyapongBishop Raymond Lahey, 70, heads to Ottawa court May 4 where he pleads guilty to importation of child pornography. Photo by Deborah GyapongFormer Bishop of Antigonish asks to be sent directly to jail

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA (CCN)–Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded guilty to the importation of child pornography May 4 and asked to go directly to jail, even though a date has not been set for his sentence hearing.

The former Bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, faced two child porn charges, but the Crown and defence counsel agreed to drop the more serious charge of possession of child pornography for the purpose of transmission.

Bishop Lahey’s lawyer told the court there was no distribution involved.

They also agreed on a set of facts that were summarized in the courtroom, but have been sealed from the public because of the child porn content.

Detective Andrew Thompson, the Ottawa police officer who did the forensic exam of Bishop Lahey’s laptop and other electronic devices, gave brief descriptions of some of the 588 images and 60 videos he found that depicted boys as young as 8-10 engaging in sexual acts with each other or adult males. He also found pornographic stories on the bishop’s hard drives —one running to 300 pages in length—that he categorized under five themes: mastery and slavery involving adults and young boys; humiliation of young boys; torture of young boys; sex acts between young boys; and degradation of young boys or forcing sex acts on them.

Bishop Lahey, who wore a tweed jacket, beige pants and carried a small blue bag, sat calmly in the packed courtroom in a row in front of journalists until he was granted permission to sit with his lawyers. He refused to answer questions as he entered the courthouse.

The judge said he was satisfied Bishop Lahey was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He decided against the Crown’s request for a pre-sentence report. He agreed with Bishop Lahey’s counsel the detailed report of the forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford and other information already gathered about Bishop Lahey’s personal life was enough.

Edelson told the court that bishops have no supervisor other than the pope.

“The pope’s not going to be taking a call from the probation officer,” he said.

Bradford was unable to come to court May 4, so a date needs to be set for his cross-examination before sentencing will take place. Bishop Lahey’s lawyers will be in court May 26 to determine a date for a sentence hearing.

The bishop faces a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in jail and possibly up to ten years.

“My client feels very deeply and profoundly remorseful for what he has done,” defence counsel Michael Edelson told the court May 4.

He said Bishop Lahey was waiving his right to bail.

“He is asking to be incarcerated this morning to signal to the court the sincerity and genuineness of his remorse.”

Bishop Lahey smiled a couple of times at his defence counsel, and then waited for a police officer to escort him out of the courtroom.

On Sept. 15, 2009, a Canadian Border Services (CBSA) agent flagged Bishop Lahey for a secondary search when he returned to Canada aboard a flight from London. He had been traveling alone and his passport showed he had visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Germany. When asked what he did for a living, he replied he was a priest who did missionary work, according to the statement of facts.

The agent asked him about what electronic gear he was carrying and noted how Bishop Lahey’s demeanor changed from being “calm, friendly and forthcoming,” to “nervous, quiet and resisting eye contact” when she asked him about whether he had a laptop.

A preliminary inspection revealed images of young males engaged in sex acts. The Ottawa police were contacted and continued the investigation, finding several more images.

Bishop Lahey denied to the CBSA agent an interest in child pornography but admitted an attraction to young males 18-21, as well as those older than that.

The bishop may face further canonical penalties.

“The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors,” a May 4 statement from the Vatican press office said. “Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures.”

The highest canonical penalty Bishop Lahey could face is dismissal from the clerical state, what used to be called defrocking, Canon Lawyer Father Frank Morrisey said.

Ontologically, he remains a priest forever, but he would no longer be considered a cleric, Father Morrisey added.

“He could be deprived of the right to take part in any meeting of conference of bishops or an ecumenical council or a papal audience, or they could forbid from exercising public ministry and make that a perpetual penalty,” he said.

Father Morrisey said further penalties will all be at the level of the Vatican.

“All cases of bishops reserved directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

“He could be assigned residence and not allowed to leave on his own,” he said, noting that Bishop Lahey had already resigned from his office as Antigonish’s bishop.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued a statement following Bishop Lahey’s conviction condemning “all forms of sexual exploitation, especially involving minors” and said it “continues to work to prevent such behaviour and to bring healing to the victims and their families.”

“Recognizing the confusion and anger that this case has engendered among many of the faithful, we underscore our pastoral concern for those who have experienced great pain as a result of these events,” the CCCB said. “In a special way our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Diocese of Antigonish and all the Atlantic region.”

“We reiterate the Catholic Church’s long-standing condemnation of the possession, distribution and use of child pornographic images in all forms, and renew our resolve to do everything we can to promote the dignity and respect of the human person.”

Sylvia MacEachern, who runs Sylvia’s Site, a blog for clerical abuse victims, and maintains an extensive data base on clerical sexual abuse in Canada, told journalists she found the courtroom proceedings “extremely disturbing.”

“I can’t understand why it took him 19 months to decide he was guilty,” she said.

She also objected to the sealing of the statement of fact and had harsh words for Bishop Lahey.

“You’re a bishop,” she said. “You spend your time feasting your time on this filth? How could you stand in a pulpit? How could you take little children and give them First Communion?”

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