Sentencing submissions delivered for local teacher in child porn case

By Patrick Burles - @PatrickBurles on Twitter
July 4, 2018 - 6:07pm

LETHBRIDGE – A former Lethbridge school teacher who admitted to child pornography charges – some of which involved images of students – is expected to learn his fate next week.

A sentencing hearing was held Wednesday afternoon, July 4, for Dwayne Schnell, who previously pleaded guilty to charges of making and distributing child pornography, and publication of an intimate image without consent.

Since he was charged in February of 2017, Schnell was removed from Ecole La Verendrye where he taught grades seven to 12.

Special prosecutor Carolyn Ayre started by suggesting a term of five years in a federal penitentiary, followed by 15 years under a prohibition order that would limit Schnell’s access to children. Schnell’s lawyer, Greg White, countered by asking for two years in prison followed by three years of probation. White also suggested a prohibition order of five years.

After hearing from both sides, Judge Eric Peterson adjourned the matter to July 10, at which time it’s anticipated he will deliver a sentence.

Crown submissions

As part of Ayre’s submissions to the court, she said it was aggravating that Schnell abused his position of trust by taking pictures of eight students, which he did without their knowledge. She said that as a teacher, Schnell was expected to protect his students, but instead acted as a “sexual predator.”

Ayre also discussed a pre-sentence report that was prepared for Schnell, in which a psychiatrist said he met the criteria for pedophilia. While she noted that the guilty pleas are a sign of remorse, she read from the doctor’s findings that Schnell “did not express remorse, and instead, rationalized his actions.” She added that the doctor also found that Schnell has no concept of the harm caused to the children, parents, or the school where he worked. Ayre went on to note that the doctor said Schnell’s assertions that he suffers from impulse control and addiction issues were “self-deceptive excuses to justify his behaviour.”

It was revealed that Schnell had approximately 1,000 images and about 600 videos of child porn, which included 150 images of students and 55 images of another youth. He also had an intimate image of another individual, which he shared without their consent.

Ayre said Schnell also had daily chats online with others centred around child exploitation, during which he would share and ask for photos of child porn.

Defence submissions

Before having his counsel make their submissions, Schnell delivered his own statement to the court.

“I have no excuse or justification for my behaviour,” said Schnell. “They were completely wrong, and I take full responsibility.

“I recognize that my actions are part of a bigger problem in my life, that I need help in dealing with,” Schnell added, saying he plans to continue to seek treatment through a program that he has been involved in for more than a year.

He also apologized for the impact of his actions on his family, the students, school, and the children involved in the images and videos he acquired.

“I accept a sentence that your honour sees fit to impose, and I recognize that I have to pay a debt back to society.”

Following that, White said that rehabilitation needs to be a major part of Schnell’s sentence, in addition to the factors of denunciation and deterrence. He reiterated that his client is eager to continue seeking treatment.

In addressing the pre-sentence report, White said the doctor conducting it was not able to assess issues in his client’s brain, and that for years he has been told he has a pornography addiction while attending a local treatment program for such issues.

“He was bullied as a child and he has low self-esteem,” White then stated, adding that at times the bullying was to the point of injury.

White also told the court that the loss of his career as a teacher should be considered a form of punishment.

Previous facts delivered to the court

Last October, Schnell entered his guilty please in connection to offences that ranged between December of 2014 and February of 2017.

Ayre provided the court with a summary of the facts in the case, saying authorities were tipped off by Skype in December of 2016, and later by Yahoo, that one of their users had been sharing child pornography. An investigation led police to obtain a search warrant for Schnell’s home, and when they informed him of their reason for being there, he told officers that he was responsible.

An examination of Schnell’s electronic devices revealed numerous online chats of a sexual nature with girls who appeared to be under the age of 18, in which he shared images of child porn.

As the investigation continued, police searched a Dropbox account that belonged to Schnell. On the account they discovered the images of students that were taken without their knowledge, and which were determined to be child pornography. Another 55 child porn images of another youth were also found during the search.

Schnell remains out of custody on bail, with conditions that he live with his parents in Calgary, and that he have no contact with children under the age of 16 or access to the internet – with limited exceptions for both.

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