Child sex offender Donnie Snook denied day parole again

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Donnie Snook, pictured here in a Corner Brook, N.L., courtroom on Aug. 20, 2013, is serving an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2013 to 46 child exploitation-related charges in Saint John. (CBC - image credit)
Donnie Snook, pictured here in a Corner Brook, N.L., courtroom on Aug. 20, 2013, is serving an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2013 to 46 child exploitation-related charges in Saint John. (CBC - image credit)

Former Saint John city councillor and convicted child sex offender Donnie Snook has been denied day parole once again.

Snook's release would "present an undue risk to the community," the Parole Board of Canada concluded Friday.

The two-member board delivered its oral decision following a virtual hearing based in Abbotsford, B.C., where Snook is believed to be serving his 18-year sentence.

"You have a psychological risk assessment that suggests with full compliance to all of the conditions — and there are many — your risk would be manageable in community," board member Catherine Dawson told Snook, in delivering the decision.

He was assessed as a low risk for general recidivism and a moderate risk for sexual recidivism, according to his parole officer, who supported his application for day parole.

"However the board remains very concerned with the seriousness of your offences," said Dawson.

"Your release plan, in the board's view, is not sufficient to manage your risk at this time."

Snook, 50, showed no reaction from behind his COVID-19 mask.

Denied 2 years ago

The board concluded Snook did not demonstrate a strong understanding of his triggers, crime cycle or the skills he could use to manage his risk in the community.

Much of his plan was based on avoidance, Dawson remarked — avoidance of everything from public washrooms where he might encounter boys, to TV episodes of Little House on the Prairie that feature a bunch of boys.

This is the second time his application has been rejected. Two years ago, the parole board reached the same conclusion, that he would "pose an undue risk."

The former youth ministry leader has been in custody since 2013. He was sentenced after pleading guilty to 46 child exploitation-related charges involving 17 males as young as five, over a 12-year period.

His crimes included sexual assault, making child pornography and extortion.

Eighteen years was "one of the longest sentences ever awarded in Canada" for such a case, the Crown prosecutor told reporters at the time.

Snook was also sentenced to an additional three months after he pleaded guilty to three child exploitation charges involving a boy under 14 in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

His sentence doesn't expire until November 2030, but he became eligible for day parole in December 2018 and full parole in June 2019, the parole board has previously said.

Sorry 'doesn't cut it'

"I could say 'sorry' all day and it doesn't cut it. It's not enough," Snook told the parole board Friday.

"I have to demonstrate that I would never hurt another boy again, and that I acknowledge the harm that I've done; the harm that I caused them when I put my hands on them.

"So yes, I'm sorry, but more than I'm sorry. Everything in me regrets what I've done."

'Level of deviousness we don't frequently see'

The board peppered Snook with questions throughout the hearing, interrupting him at times and challenging some of his answers.

Board member Carol-Ann Reynen asked Snook how he justified his "abhorrent" actions while he was committing them.

"I told myself this was something that was pleasurable, it wasn't causing harm," he replied.

Reynen said she had a "hard time" with that explanation. "If you believed that to be true, then why hide it?"

CBC
CBC

Snook, she said, demonstrated a "level of deviousness we don't frequently see." He "geared [his] whole life toward offending," and picked particularly vulnerable victims.

Snook said that was a fair statement. "It's horrendous that I masked it to the extent that I used helping vulnerable children and religion to do that."

The pornography helped "normalize" his behaviour and became addictive, he said. "Enough was never enough. …It became this feeding frenzy, just a loss of complete control."

'Never again'

There is "an ever-present sadness and regret" for his actions when he looks in the mirror, which, at one time, he would try to "chase away," he said.

But "to allow them to exist, for me, is the thing that motivates me to say, 'never again.'"

Snook told the board he has "worked hard to be honest with [himself] and with others … and to be ready for parole whenever that should happen."

His release plan included remaining in the Abbotsford area, living at a halfway house and seeking a "suitable" job, possibly in the cleaning industry. His support network includes his sister, he said.

"I look forward to taking the next steps in my life when I'm given that opportunity."

Snook has previously been granted several escorted temporary absences while serving his sentence, including a 2019 trip to St. John's to attend his father's funeral and several outings in the Abbotsford, B.C., area to attend church.

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