A former children’s coach convicted of voyeurism in connection with more than three dozen photos taken of boys in Surrey and Coquitlam sports-facility dressing rooms is to learn his penalty in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster next month.
Following a sentencing hearing Friday (Jan. 10), Justice Heather MacNaughton set Feb. 4 to render her decision in the case against Randy William Downes.
“Obviously, this is not a decision that I’m going to make lightly, nor is it something I’m going to do this evening,” MacNaughton said at the conclusion of the day-long hearing.
Downes, who was 59 at the time of his arrest, was convicted last June of two counts of voyeurism, in connection with photos taken in June 2013 and August 2015. During trial, prosecutors relied on 38 photos of two young boys, out of thousands linked to facilities, including South Surrey Arena, found on electronic devices seized from Downes’ Coquitlam home by RCMP acting on a search warrant.
None of the photos were pornographic, the judge noted at trial.
One of the two boys was 13 when he played hockey on a team Downes coached, and the other was 12 and played hockey and baseball on teams Downes coached, the court heard. Both are now adults, and testified that they were not aware that the photos had been taken.
There is a publication ban on information that could identify the complainants and certain witnesses.
In court Friday, prosecutor Gail Barnes, noting Downes has already spent 200 days in custody – 300, when enhanced credit is applied – submitted an additional day in jail would be appropriate, as well as three years probation and other conditions, including forfeiture of certain electronic items if the equipment cannot be “scrubbed.”
Defence counsel Glen Orris contended the case “does not call for a custodial term.” He suggested a suspended sentence – or even a conditional discharge – and no more than a year’s probation would be more fitting.
In making the argument, Orris pointed to the “public fallout” Downes has dealt with since charges were first announced in October 2016, and made particular note of the impact caused by the initial announcement that the charges included possession of child pornography; charges that were ultimately dropped.
Orris said RCMP held press conferences and made representations about his client that were “simply false.”
“Mr. Downes was effectively ostracized,” Orris said. “Your ladyship knows, when those allegations are made, there’s no presumption of innocence.”
Orris also objected to conditions proposed by Crown for Downes, which include sex-offender counselling and restrictions on volunteer work, describing the latter as unnecessary and the former as “simply a statement that the Crown asks you to impose acknowledging that he is a sexual offender… and that’s not what this case is about.”
Orris filed letters of support from friends and fellow coaches of Downes, as well as a number from young people Downes had coached, and noted that his client also wanted to address the court before he was sentenced.
Barnes said she was opposed to a conditional discharge – which would result in no criminal conviction, provided Downes does not breach any imposed conditions – “in very strenuous terms,” arguing that defence counsel “has not dealt with how it is in the public interest.”
She also took issue with what she found were “quite remarkable” comments in some of the support letters. She highlighted that one writer had described the evidence as a mistake.
“He made a mistake 38 times, and then he made a mistake when he cropped (the photos) and saved them,” she said. “So it wasn’t an isolated event.”
She said the “as-directed” counselling was proposed as Downes “seems not to know why he took the pictures.”
“Most people don’t take surreptitious pictures of children in a changeroom, in their underwear,” she said. “So if Mr. Downes doesn’t know what his motivation is, maybe he’ll get some insight.”