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Barry Bowers accessed photos and videos while at work; used company email to send links to himself
A former North Atlantic Refinery worker pleaded guilty Tuesday to accessing child pornography, and received a six-month jail sentence.
Provincial court Judge Mike Madden accepted the Crown and defence lawyers’ joint recommendation for the jail term for 57-year-old Barry Bowers, noting Bowers had no prior criminal record, had lost his job and his wife as a result of his crime, and had sought counselling before he had been charged.
“Mr. Bowers is described in a letter (from his psychologist) as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which they say contributed to this behaviour, apparently,” Madden said. “He is not, in the opinion of his therapist, a pedophile nor has pedophilic tendencies, but I would note that undeniably he did access and view child pornography.”
Police were contacted by the oil refinery in January 2019, after IT workers discovered suspicious activity on the company's computer system. Bowers — a mechanical designer — was later identified through a personal access code as having accessed child pornography images and videos on his work computer, using his North Atlantic email to send the links to himself.
Because Bowers’ computer web history had been set to delete upon closing the web browser, the company tasked an employee with monitoring Bowers’ online activity in real time. On Jan. 24, once the employee captured screenshots of images Bowers had accessed, Bowers was suspended from work and escorted from the refinery, with security personnel guarding the computer and tablet in his cubicle until police arrived.
Police seized a desktop computer, tablet and USB drive, and found 244 images and four videos of child pornography, all deleted but recovered by investigators. One of the screenshot images was also determined to be child pornography.
Bowers later turned himself in to police and was released to await trial.
“I take responsibility for my actions,” Bowers told the court Tuesday. “I sought out therapy and have been in treatment for PTSD for the past 11 months. This therapy has been restoring my mental health. It is important that I continue with this therapy in order to move forward.
“With God’s help and the continued love and support of my family, I am confident that I will be a productive citizen.”
Before sentencing Bowers, the judge stressed the serious nature and lasting impact of child pornography.
“Production of child pornography is fueled by the market for it and the market in turn is fueled by those who seek to possess it, or in this case, access and view it,” Madden said, quoting from a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. “The link between the production of child pornography and the harm to children is very strong. The abuse is broad in extent and devastating in impact.
“The trauma and violation of dignity may stay with the child for as long as he or she lives, and the child must live in the years that follow with the knowledge that the degrading photo or film may still exist and may at any moment be watched and enjoyed by someone.”
Bowers’ jail term will be followed by 18 months of probation, with an order to continue counselling, among other conditions. Bowers will be named on the national sex offender registry for the next 10 years, and is banned from attending public parks, swimming areas, daycare centres, school grounds and other places children under 16 can be expected to be present. He is also banned from using the internet for purposes other than counselling, employment or banking.