High-risk sex offender Saint John police warned about is back in custody

·6 min read
The parole board says no appropriate program of supervision can be established that would adequately protect society from the risk of Harvey Venus reoffending. (Saint John Police Force - image credit)
The parole board says no appropriate program of supervision can be established that would adequately protect society from the risk of Harvey Venus reoffending. (Saint John Police Force - image credit)

A high-risk offender with a history of sex crimes involving children, who was released to the Saint John community last February under a public alert from police, has allegedly breached a number of conditions and is expected to face new sex charges, according to a parole board decision.

Harvey Joseph Venus, who is in his mid-30s, is back in custody after the Parole Board of Canada suspended his long-term supervision order.

He is accused of "reoffending in a sexual manner," having contact with children under 18 and failing to report a relationship.

He presents a "substantial risk" to the community, the decision issued this week alleges.

The board gave a number of reasons for taking Venus's behaviour seriously. These included his record of sex offences, a psychological assessment that indicated his risk of reoffending sexually is above average, and his "pedophilic disorder, deviant sexual preferences and an indifference to the harm caused to [his] victims."

Venus was released into a community correctional centre in Saint John after he completed a four-year sentence at Dorchester Penitentiary for sexual interference involving a girl under the age of 16 in Nova Scotia.

He inappropriately touched the victim and took pictures her, while reportedly using an alias due to his sexual offence history, according to parole documents.

Was under 8-year supervision order

When he was released, Venus was still under an eight-year long-term supervision order, which the judge added to the end of his sentence, also known as the warrant expiry date.

The Saint John Police Force took the unusual step of issuing a public safety alert at the time, saying information indicated he posed "a risk of significant harm to children under the age of 16."

"The Saint John Police [Force] is issuing this public notification following a careful consideration of all related factors, including individual privacy concerns and public safety concerns, in the belief that it is clearly in the public interest to inform members of the community of the release of Harvey Venus," the advisory said.

The warning was meant "to enable members of the public to take suitable precautionary measures," police said.

Submitted by Saint John Police Force
Submitted by Saint John Police Force

Venus was under a number of special conditions imposed by the parole board, "regarding negative associates, reporting relationships, victim contact, children contact, children areas, pornography, alcohol, drugs, treatment plans, as well as telecommunication and internet restrictions," according to the parole document.

Shortly after he was released, however, someone called the community correctional centre to say he had been in contact with a six-year-old, it states.

A few weeks later, his case management team received information that he was seen talking to an unknown female who was pushing a baby stroller.

A few days later, he was seen holding hands with an unknown female, and "only disclosed this relationship after being seen."

During a routine search at the community correctional centre on April 27, staff found a smartphone charger in his room, according to the six-page document.

On May 4, staff received a call stating Venus had been visiting a female's house and had been "'tickling' a child."

"Police also stated that credible information was received that [he was] in the presence of someone under 18 years old at times alone and on more than one occasion," the document alleges.

As a result, his release was suspended on May 5, and a warrant for his apprehension was issued.

Sexual assault, sexual interference charges pending

"The board is of the opinion that there is sufficient reliable and persuasive information on file to be persuaded that you breached your special conditions to report relationships and related to being in the presence of children under the age of 18 years," the decision states.

The board notes there were "a number" of previous "concerning incidents" that did not result in the suspension of Venus's supervision.

There had been information that he "had contact with children or [was] forming relationships/friendships with females," according to the parole board. This resulted in restricted access to the community or "discussions" with him.

"The board concludes there is clear and convincing evidence not only of your breach but also of an increase of your risk to return to your offence cycle," the decision states.

"As the board is satisfied that no appropriate program of supervision can be established that would adequately protect society from the risk of your reoffending, and breach has occurred, the board recommends that an information be laid charging you with an offence under section 753.3 of the Criminal Code," breach of a long-term supervision order.

"It is noted that you will be incurring new charges of sexual assault and sexual interference," the decision states.

Saint John police do not currently have any new charges against Venus, said Staff Sgt. Andrew MacBean.

'Well above average' risk to reoffend sexually

A specialized sex offender assessment in October 2019 concluded Venus presented a moderate risk to reoffend generally, a moderate risk to reoffend violently, and a well above average risk to reoffend sexually.

A spousal assault risk assessment completed in May 2018 found he presented a moderate imminent risk of violence toward a partner and a high imminent risk of violence toward others.

Venus scored 21 on the criminal risk index. Research found that 30 per cent of male federal offenders in this category committed an offence within three years of release.

His reintegration potential is rated as low.

Previous statutory release was revoked

During Venus's previous federal sentence, his statutory release was suspended after one month, as his risk was deemed "no longer manageable."

His relationship had "deteriorated," he was in contact with underage females and was accessing pornography, according to the parole board.

In May 2020, the board concluded he was "likely" to commit a sexual offence involving a child before the expiration of his sentence if released, and his detention was ordered.

Cut clothing off sleeping girl

Venus's criminal record includes two counts of sexual assault, one of which involved entering a home, going to a girl's bedroom and cutting off her clothing while she slept. He left when she woke up.

Other offences had sexual components as well, the board notes, such as breaking into residences and stealing or going through underwear.

A psychiatric assessment conducted for the court in 2017 found Venus suffers from deviant sexual preferences for sexual contact with pubescent and/or prepubescent individuals and a fetishistic disorder, specifically toward female undergarments.

His sexual behaviour began as a child, including exposing himself to other children. He was sent to a treatment facility, where several incidents of a sexual nature occurred, such as masturbating in front of others, fantasizing about female staff, making inappropriate comments, and stealing clothing.

Venus had a difficult upbringing, according to the parole board. He was the victim of physical and sexual abuse, as well as severe neglect and was raised in poverty, the document states. He also witnessed domestic violence and sexual abuse.

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