A well-known Happy Valley-Goose Bay man convicted of possessing child pornography will have to wait for a judge's decision later this month to find out how long his jail sentence will be.
Valance Job Oliver pleaded guilty to a single count of possessing child pornography, which carries mandatory jail time.
In provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday, Judge Rolf Pritchard said there was a lot to digest after hearing from both Crown attorney Brandon Gillespie and Oliver's defence counsel, Jonathan Regan.
Oliver is known in the community for often wearing a Santa Claus suit for the town's Christmas parade. Through his media company, he also filmed children's dance recitals and school concerts in the town.
According to Oliver's LinkedIn profile, he worked as a communications manager for the Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs from 2014 until 2017. Before that, he was director of communications for Labrador MP Yvonne Jones for seven months, according to his profile.
Earlier, he worked for the Newfoundland and Labrador government for more than six years as a public relations specialist based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
More than 2,900 images
In September 2018, the RCMP and RNC's joint internet child exploitation unit received a complaint from the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre regarding the possession of child pornography.
Oliver was arrested at his home after police executed a search warrant in February 2019.
According to the agreed statement of facts read upon by the Crown, Oliver told police he did not possess child pornography but some of it appeared via pop-ups when using the internet, and he did not know where it came from.
But a digital forensics specialist with the unit found images and videos on hard-drives, memory cards and a laptop Oliver owned and used.
They also found earlier internet search terms for child pornography on his computer, and there was evidence that a number of videos with names associated with child pornography had been viewed.
The Crown said a total of 2,949 images and 75 videos of child pornography were discovered during a single search of Oliver's residence.
Oliver spent two days in custody at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP detachment after being arrested.
Crown attorney Gillespie submitted a detailed description of some of the seized images and videos to Pritchard, noting that they are are "exceptionally graphic."
"This is a case where an individual possesses an enormous volume of imagery and video that depicts in various forms extremely disturbing sexual acts performed on and by children," he told the court.
"The majority of children depicted are prepubescent, and almost certainly lack full comprehension and understanding surrounding what was occurring to them, particularly when you consider some of the imagery depicted children as young as two or three years old."
By obtaining child pornography, Gillespie said, Oliver helped to create a demand for material he referred to as "heinous," and directly contributed to the victimization and exploitation of children.
He said real children suffer and are traumatized, adding that Oliver's demand for child pornography was born out of a "mental compulsion" for it.
Shunned by family
Defence lawyer Jonathan Regan said his client has been in counselling through the John Howard Society, has moved away from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and says he doesn't plan to return to the town after the sentence.
Regan said the counselling Oliver has been receiving has involved his mental health and some addictions issues. The court heard he had been drinking heavily during the offences, and that Oliver said he had been over-using cannabis.
The court also heard that Oliver is remorseful, and his family has shunned him as a result of the charges, with Oliver's own son changing his last name.
Oliver, who appeared in court via telephone, said he has had a long time to think about accepting his guilt and to reconcile his shame.
He also thanked the integrated internet child exploitation unit.
"I was destroying my life and everything I had before IICE knocked on my door. Without their strong intervention, there's a possibility I may not have been here today," he said.
Oliver said it's "just" that he be punished for his crimes.
"I was brought up on family values, very tight-knit family values, and I ignored those values to the point that I destroyed everything," he said.
"I just hope that I can get back to where I was 12, 13 years ago when I was a kind and a generous person in society."
He told the court that he misses Labrador a lot and he's sorry for what he did. He said he has deservedly lost respect from friends and peers. He also apologized to his son, who he said deserves much better.
The Crown is seeking a jail sentence of 15 to 18 months with three years of probation with conditions attached. The conditions include limiting Oliver's internet usage to activities such as employment and education purposes, with the internet accessible only outside the home.
Gillespie said conditions should specify that Oliver cannot go to places such as daycare centres and playgrounds where there are children under 16 years old, and that he attend counselling as part of his probation.
Regan said an appropriate sentence would be 12 months, plus three years of probation with conditions that would allow Oliver to communicate with family members via the internet.
Regan asked the court to also consider that Oliver has been following strict conditions since being released from Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP custody, and those conditions have had a punitive effect on him over the last two years.
He also said Oliver is hoping to serve his sentence at the Bishop's Falls facility where there are programs for sex offenders.
Oliver is already on the sexual offenders information registry list for a previous and unrelated sexual assault conviction.
The Crown wants him to be on that registry for life.
Pritchard is expected to deliver a sentencing decision April 29 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.