CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

Lahey and his lawyers on their way to the Ottawa courthouse on May 4.

May 5, 2011
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA — Bishop Raymond Lahey pleaded guilty to the importation of child pornography May 4 and asked to go directly to jail, even though a date has not been set for his sentence hearing.

The former bishop of Antigonish, N.S., faced two child porn charges, but the Crown and defence counsel agreed to drop the more serious charge of possession of child pornography for the purpose of transmission.

Lahey’s lawyer told the court no distribution was involved.

They also agreed on a set of facts that were summarized in the courtroom, but have been sealed from the public because of the child porn content.

Det. Andrew Thompson, the Ottawa police officer who did the forensic exam of Lahey’s laptop and other electronic devices, gave brief descriptions of some of the 588 images and 60 videos he found that depicted boys as young as eight to 10 engaging in sexual acts with each other or adult males.

Thompson also found pornographic stories on the bishop’s hard drives – one running to 300 pages in length — that he categorized under five themes: mastery and slavery involving adults and young boys; humiliation of young boys; torture of young boys; sex acts between young boys; and degradation of young boys or forcing sex acts on them.

Lahey, who wore a tweed jacket, beige pants and carried a small blue bag, sat calmly in the packed courtroom in a row in front of journalists until he was granted permission to sit with his lawyers. He refused to answer questions as he entered the courthouse.

The judge said he was satisfied Lahey was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He decided against the Crown’s request for a pre-sentence report. He agreed with Lahey’s counsel the detailed report of the forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford and other information already gathered about Lahey’s personal life was enough.

Bradford was unable to come to court May 4, so a date needs to be set for his cross-examination before sentencing will take place. Lahey’s lawyers will be in court May 26 to determine a date for a sentence hearing.

The bishop faces a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in jail and possibly up to 10 years.

“My client feels very deeply and profoundly remorseful for what he has done,” said defence counsel Michael Edelson told the court May 4.

Lahey was waiving his right to bail, the lawyer said. “He is asking to be incarcerated this morning to signal to the court the sincerity and genuineness of his remorse.”

Lahey smiled a couple of times at his defence counsel, and then waited for a police officer to escort him out of the courtroom.

On Sept. 15, 2009, a Canadian Border Services (CBSA) agent flagged Lahey for a secondary search when he returned to Canada aboard a flight from London. He had been travelling alone and his passport showed he had visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Germany.

According to the statement of facts, when asked what he did for a living, he replied he was a priest who did missionary work.

The agent asked him about what electronic gear he was carrying and noted how Lahey’s demeanour changed from being “calm, friendly and forthcoming,” to “nervous, quiet and resisting eye contact” when she asked him about whether he had a laptop.

A preliminary inspection revealed images of young males engaged in sex acts. The Ottawa police were contacted and continued the investigation, finding several more images.

Lahey denied to the CBSA agent an interest in child pornography but admitted an attraction to young males 18 to 21, as well as those older than that.

The bishop may face further canonical penalties.

The highest canonical penalty Lahey could face is dismissal from the clerical state, what used to be called defrocking, said Father Frank Morrissey, a leading canon lawyer.

Ontologically, Lahey remains a priest forever, but he would no longer be considered a cleric, Morrissey said.

“He could be deprived of the right to take part in any meeting of conference of bishops or an ecumenical council or a papal audience, or they could forbid from exercising any public ministry and make that a perpetual penalty.”

Further penalties will all be at the level of the Vatican, he said. “All cases of bishops are reserved directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued a statement following Lahey’s conviction condemning “all forms of sexual exploitation, especially involving minors” and said it “continues to work to prevent such behaviour and to bring healing to the victims and their families.”