Sudbury man headed to the pen for surfing the 'dark corners of the internet'

A Sudbury man is headed to federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

Justin Philion, 32, pled guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice to accessing child pornography on July 15, 2015, and possession of child pornography on Dec. 10, 2018.

He originally entered a guilty plea to the court via Zoom in front of a different judge on Dec. 15, 2022. That plea was struck and re-entered before Justice Lawrence Klein, during his sentencing March 10.

Due to the length of his criminality, as well as the severity and quantity of content retrieved from his devices, Philion has been sentence to three and a half years (42 months) in a federal penitentiary.

The sentence also includes:

– a 20-year Section 161 Order, which prohibits activities that may include contact with children under age 16; and

– a lifetime SOIRA order, requiring him to register under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

He will also be required to submit DNA samples and forfeit his devices.

While defence lawyer Glenn Sandberg and Crown attorney Grace Alcaide Janicas presented an agreed statement of facts to the judge, the contents of that report, as well as the pre-sentencing report, were not read aloud in court.

Philion was charged on Dec. 11, 2020, by members of the Greater Sudbury Police Service Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit, assisted by Emergency response and Intelligence units.

According to a news released issued by the police service at the time, the United States Department of Homeland Security notified the ICE unit that a person in Greater Sudbury had been accessing and possessing child pornography online over a period of several years.

He originally faced 40 child pornography charges.

According to Sandberg, Philion's defence lawyer, the sentence is appropriate given the nature of the facts, as well as the severity of the content he accessed, and the extended period of time over which he committed his offences.

"As a caveat, Mr. Philion has pursued counselling of his own volition," he said. "He is not just the person named; he is much more than that. He has faced many challenges and has had difficulty coping with stressor.

"As a result, he fell into the forbidden comfort of using this type of stimulation as a replacement for social interaction."

He added that Philion never actdc on his desires in real life and never had any intention to do so.

"He never had any notion of crossing the line," said Sandberg. "You are not sentencing someone who engaged in this type of stimulation with the though of bringing it into the real world. Mr. Philion is not that person."

In addition to serving out his sentence, Sandberg said Philion takes full responsibility for his actions and will continue to pursue counselling and other types of assistance, to address what he calls his "addiction" to child pornography.

Philion declined to address the court.

Crown attorney Grace Alcaide Janicas said that while a number of aggravating factors warranted the penitentiary sentence, 42 months is a relatively light incarceration period for this type of crime.

"Aggravating factors include the sheer volume of child pornography retrieved from his devices, as well as the nature of the images and movies," she said. "He also purchased content and his use lasted a period of years.

"If Mr. Philion had gone to trial, he likely would have been given seven years given these aspects of the case."

In this type of case, she said, denouncement and deterrence are crucial considerations in the sentencing process.

"People need to know that when they engage in this type of behaviour, they will face significant sanctions," she said. "We also need to address the safety of the public. While Mr. Philion indicates that he understands the severity of his actions, we need to send a message that this behaviour is not acceptable in our society."

Justice Klein accepted the sentence, and reiterated that the sentence was light for this type of offence.

"To your credit, you made a quick decision to admit to your failings and your criminalities instead of taking up the court's time," Klein said to Philion. "You immediately recognized that you were in the wrong way and need help. Some can't do that. You are not detached from reality just yet."

According to Klein, child pornography cases are increasing in the Sudbury region. Sentences like this, he said, are essential to deter other from "adding fuel to the fire."

"This content harms our young and most vulnerable citizens," he said. "The industry is such that police are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content, struggling to clean the dark corners of the internet.

"It's coming like a firehouse into our catchment area, and we only have a garden house to empty it. Because people like you provide fuel with your money."

Regardless of whether an individual who consumes child porn acts on their desires in real life, the child pornography still constitutes child abuse, said Klein.

"These children are victimized, sometimes over and over again," he said. "That is a lifelong burden for those children. It can take a long time for them to feel worthy to society, to be loved, to be in a relationship with consent, without violence."

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star