Four-year prison sentence handed to former teacher for child porn offences

By Patrick Burles - @PatrickBurles on Twitter
July 10, 2018 - 3:08pm Updated: July 10, 2018 - 4:33pm

LETHBRIDGE – Former Lethbridge school teacher Dwayne Schnell has received a four-year prison sentence on child pornography charges.

Schnell had previously pleaded guilty to charges of making and distributing child pornography, and publication of an intimate image without consent.

The Crown had suggested five years in prison, while the defence countered by asking for two years in custody followed by three years of probation.

While delivering his decision Tuesday afternoon, July 10, Judge Eric Peterson stated that everyone should feel “revulsion” for such a crime.

“I can only express outrage at the sickening display of abuse,” added Judge Peterson, after noting that he had reviewed a portion of Schnell’s child porn collection as part of the decision-making process – a collection that consisted of 1,000 images, 600 videos, 150 images of students that were taken without their knowledge, and 55 images of another youth. It was noted that the students were all fully clothed in the images, which were generally taken from behind them.

Following Schnell’s release from prison, he will be bound by a prohibition order for 10 years that will restrict his access to the internet and places where children under the age of 16 are likely to be present, with some exceptions in place.

Outside the courthouse, Carolyn Ayre with special prosecutions noted that it was troubling to see a teacher in a position of trust and authority in possession of such images. She did point out that not all of the images of students constituted child porn.

Another concerning aspect that she discussed was the pre-sentence report prepared for Schnell.

“[The psychiatrist who assessed Schnell] found that Mr. Schnell did not give any spontaneous, or any indications of any remorse or understanding of how his behaviour impacted his family, the students, the school – and basically found that he wasn't remorseful,” said Ayre.

During her sentencing submissions, Ayre said the PSR showed that Schnell had rationalized his actions, making assertions that he suffers from impulse control and addiction issues, which the doctor called, “self-deceptive excuses to justify his behaviour.”

Defence lawyer Greg White also addressed the media, saying Schnell is almost like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

“Dwayne is a wonderful person, he's got a heart of gold and he'd give the shirt off his back for anybody,” said White. “But for whatever reason he became curious, and he looked at this material and then he continued to look at this material. His family knows him as the person who has the heart of gold, and unfortunately behind that heart of gold in quiet moments, in dark moments, he was a different person."

White also touched on the perceived lack of remorse from his client.

“Mr. Schnell is remorseful, was always remorseful and that's why he entered guilty pleas. When he met with the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist was looking through the lens of a psychiatrist. In terms of what we would normally call remorse, Mr. Schnell definitely has a lot of that. He feels terrible about the effect that this has had on the unnamed victims – the children that are in these pictures and videos. He feels terrible about the effect this has on his family, his community, the school he was teaching at. He feels terrible about all those things."

Continuing on, White said Schnell has acknowledged his problems and been working to correct them for some time.

"He's been doing treatment for sixteen months leading up to the sentencing,” said White. “He's going to continue to do treatment into the distant future I'm sure. This isn't something that you just put away in one day, I don't think there's anything such as cold turkey when you're talking about this sort of thing."

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.

Special prosecutor Carolyn 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. The other 55 images of another youth were also found during the search.

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