A former Westpark Middle School teacher got a six-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to three of 26 sexual exploitation-related charges involving an 11-year-old victim.
Norman Joseph Howes, 61, admitted his guilt to making, printing or publishing child pornography; sexual interference with a minor; and making sexually explicit materials available to a child.
Special Crown prosecutor Carolyn Ayre and defence lawyer Stephen Bitzer jointly recommended a six-year jail sentence to Judge John Holmes in Red Deer provincial court Wednesday.
Ayre said a weighty prison term was requested, based on the gravity of Howe’s offenses and the breach of trust evident in his actions.
While the accused’s guilty plea saved the victim and her family from a painful trial, and was a mitigating factor, Ayre said Howes still “sought out and targeted” a child, groomed her and “manipulated” her into a sexual relationship.
“This wasn’t lack of impulse control or due to mental health issues… he took the opportunity to get closer to her,” Ayres told the court.
Howes deliberately broke down a vulnerable minor’s inhibitions, “normalized” sexual relations, and then pressed her to keep it a secret, or he would go to jail and lose his family, the Crown said.
“The consequences (of his actions) will follow her for the rest of her life.”
The former teacher was initially accused of five sexual offences that allegedly occurred last December. In April, another 21 charges were laid.
The mother of the now 12-year-old read impact statements for herself and her daughter.
She spoke of her child acting withdrawn and feeling like throwing up. She would watch anxiously in case Howes was following her or intending to approach her.
The mother said her daughter was fearful and depressed.
The innocence Howes took she will never get back, the mom tearfully added.
The former Red Deer public school teacher, a married father of three adult children who resigned earlier this year after the charges were laid, said “sorry” to the victim and her family through his lawyer — and then directly.
“I’m ashamed of myself for what I have done… Please forgive me,” said the ruddy-faced accused — as the victim’s grandfather walked out of the courtroom.
“I know I have done something wrong and need to be punished for it,” Howes added.
Holmes said he can’t account for how somebody can live 61 apparently crime-free years and then become a child predator. He speculated it could be some form of “mental disorder.”
While there’s a tendency for victims and their families to blame themselves in these kinds of cases, Holmes stressed the accused is the only one at fault.
Hopefully, with family support, the young victim can move ahead with her life, having dealt with this in a “constructive way,” the judge added.
The girl’s mother applauded as Howes was led away in police custody.
Although the remaining charges against him were dropped, he was ordered to give a DNA sample and be placed on the sex offender registry for life.
Howes was also ordered to stay away from playgrounds, schools or anywhere children gather for 20 years, and have no contact with the victim and her family for the duration of his sentence.
Red Deer Public Schools superintendent Stu Henry said he’s satisfied that the “incredibly difficult situation” for the victim and her family was dealt with capably by the justice system — although “the healing will continue for some time.”
Henry was appalled and angered that Howes violated his position of trust as a teacher, and said the school district reacted swiftly to work with the RCMP in this investigation.