A St. Albert cab driver has been handed a seven-month sentence for child luring.
On Wednesday, Imam Buksh appeared before Justice Sterling Sanderman at the Court of Queens Bench in Edmonton where he was sentenced to seven months behind bars followed by 18 months of probation.
Buksh pleaded guilty to one count child luring in July 2020 after an undercover RCMP operation led to Buksh arranging a meeting with an officer in 2018, who he believed to be a 15-year-old girl.
Crown prosecutor Parm Johal asked the judge to hand down a sentence of 18 months and three years probation, while defence counsel David Wolsey asked for probation or a 90-day intermittent sentence.
Buksh, 71, who owned R5 Taxi and Courier Service, pleaded guilty to one count of child luring in 2020. He admitted in court he communicated with a person he believed was under the age of 16 for sexual purposes.
According to the agreed statement of facts that was presented at the Court of Queens Bench, Crimestoppers received a tip that Buksh was giving free rides to girls and buying them food and alcohol.
In late 2017, Buksh met a 15-year-old girl when she and her friends left a party and called a cab. Buksh didn't charge them for the ride, and went on to give the teen another 10 free rides. The statement of facts noted the teen felt uncomfortable by comments Buksh made and told him she was 15.
Buksh exchanged 767 text messages with the teen, including sending some that were sexually charged, in which he wrote about wanting to touch her and kiss her. He also offered her money to go shopping.
The teen came forward to police in January 2018 to report Buksh.
The RCMP set up an undercover investigation, creating a fictitious 15-year-old girl named Char, whom Buksh exchanged 775 text messages with.
He sent her explicit messages and tried to arrange an in-person meeting between April 2 and 11, 2018. Char's messages stated she was 15 years old.
On April 11, Buksh arranged to meet Char at a Tim Hortons to have sex. He said he would bring condoms when a message from Char stated they didn't want to get pregnant.
When Buksh arrived at the Tim Hortons, he was arrested and his cellphone was seized.
After his arrest, Buksh said any man would be tempted if a 15-year-old girl texted him, and said that he didn’t know he was talking to a 15-year-old. Buksh also admitted to the RCMP that he got carried away.
RCMP also found messages to other girls in Buksh’s phone and he was originally charged with five sex-related offences in 2018.
Justice Sterling Sanderman described the text messages sent to Char as “very graphic” and “sexually explicit”
“It appears that, looking at these text messages, that you are apparently looking for a hookup with a person who you believe to be 15 years of age,” Sanderman said.
Mitigating factors in Buksh’s favour were that he pleaded guilty, thus meaning witnesses didn't have to testify at trial, has no criminal record, his early guilty plea was taken as a sign of remorse and he was fully co-operative with the RCMP. Sanderman said Buksh has led a productive life, owning several companies including a cleaning company and taxi service, and has been a productive member of society.
But Sanderman said the aggravating factors in the case included the “remarkable age difference between you and the person you thought you were communicating with,” the repeated messaging to Char over a short period of time and the messages being full of “sexual innuendo.”
In determining Buksh's sentence, the justice also considered Buksh’s relationship with his wife, who is ill and relies on Buksh for support.
“She has become dependent upon you when she is in the community ... to provide comfort to her and to provide assistance to her in her daily struggles,” Sanderman said.
“She's much more dependent upon you than most spouses are who come before the court. But I can't keep you out of jail just because she's dependent upon you. You're the person that is before the court. You're the person that is facing consequences for your conduct.”
Buksh is at a low risk to reoffend, said psychologist Dr. George Pugh, who testified in court on Wednesday. Due to his age upon release (Buksh is currently 71), his 20-year stable relationship with his wife, no criminal history of any sexual or violent offences, along with other factors, Pugh said Buksh was at a low risk to reoffend upon release. Offenders who achieved a similar score had a recidivism rate of 2.1 per cent.
Pugh ran a battery of psychological tests on Buksh and found that Buksh scored in the low range of intellectual development on a brief IQ test administered. The test indicated his vocabulary ability is quite diminished when compared with the average of the general population of senior citizens.
Buksh’s logical thinking registered as well below average, at the third percentile, or 97 per cent below his peers. Pugh said this could could be due to brain damage or dysfunction, which could make Buksh more impulsive. Pugh said overall there is cognitive decline in Buksh which can cause him to have a higher likelihood of impulsive conduct.
"I think there has been some decline in his logical thinking," Pugh said.
"(Buksh is) more prone to frustration, confusion and impulsivity as a consequence."
Pugh said at first it was hard for Buksh to grasp why there was such a strong public condemnation of his actions, but now he "understands that this kind of conduct is unacceptable."
Both the justice and Pugh agreed that jail would be hard for him to endure at his age.
"Any person going into jail at that age is vulnerable, even seen as a target," Pugh said.
The court heard from Buksh through a letter read out by Wolsey that he was sorry and was willing to do whatever was needed to do to make it right.
"He wants me to let the court know how extremely apologetic, how extremely remorseful he is. He wants me to tell the court this is not something that will ever happen again," Wolsley said before reading the letter.
“I never talked to minors directly but I still apologize from a very, very sad heart,” the letter read.
Buksh and his wife, who was present in court, cried while Wolsey read the letter to the court.
After Buksh's sentence is complete, he will serve 18 months of probation where he will need to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, report as directed after release from jail and undergo counselling if it is determined to be a benefit. Buksh will have to submit a DNA sample for the national database, have a 10-year prohibition on firearms also is prohibited from being in a position of trust for anyone under the age of 16.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette