Crown urges five-year term for Maple Ridge 'Swirl Face' pedophile

Out of the courts... - TIMES files
Out of the courts...
— image credit: TIMES files

by Jennifer Saltman / Special to The TIMES

The Crown is seeking a five-year prison sentence for a B.C. man who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing boys in Cambodia, and possessing and accessing child pornography.

However, Crown prosecutor Brendan McCabe said that if a five-year sentence is imposed, Christopher Paul Neil will spend less than a year in prison after being given credit for time served in pretrial custody.

Neil — known around the world as the “Swirl Face” pedophile who spent five years in a Thai prison for sexually assaulting boys — appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Thursday for a sentencing hearing.

Neil pleaded guilty in December to two counts of sexual interference involving two boys under the age of 14 in Cambodia, one count of possessing child pornography in Maple Ridge and two counts of accessing child pornography in Vancouver.

In October 2007, Interpol issued a public appeal for information about a man who appeared in photos sexually abusing young boys.

The man had his face digitally obscured in a swirl, which the authorities unscrambled.

Neil was identified as the perpetrator and arrested near Bangkok.

He was sentenced to about nine years in prison for crimes committed against children in Thailand.

After Neil was identified, police searched his mother’s home in Maple Ridge.

There, officers found discs containing thousands of images of child pornography.

Some of those images featured Neil sexually assaulting the two boys in Cambodia.

The assaults took place in February 2003, before his offences in Thailand. In 2012, Neil returned to B.C. after serving five years of his Thai prison sentence.

He was placed on an 18-month peace bond after arriving in Vancouver.

Neil was arrested less than a year later, in August 2013, at a residence in Vancouver, where he had a computer and cellphones in his possession.

He used the computer to access child pornography. He was released on bail, and while on bail he befriended another sex offender.

The two men bought a new computer, from which Neil accessed child porn and advised others how to find child porn online.

A pre-sentence report states Neil is at a high risk for future child porn possession and low-to-moderate risk for future sexual offending against children. Neil’s risk to offend against children is elevated if he travels to places like Cambodia and Thailand.

McCabe said it’s concerning that Neil, who has been diagnosed as a pedophile, continues to offend despite court orders.

The report states that, “Unfortunately for Mr. Neil, evidence shows that pedophilic sexual interest is generally not amenable to change.” McCabe continued, “Not to put too fine a point on it, but once a pedophile always a pedophile.”

In addition to a custodial sentence, McCabe is seeking three years of probation with strict conditions, and a lifetime ban on Neil attending places where children under 16 would congregate, being in a position of authority over someone under 16, having contact with anyone under 16 or accessing the internet. McCabe told the court that he believes Neil’s case is the fourth of its kind prosecuted in B.C. under Canada’s child sex tourism laws.

The sentencing hearing continues Friday.

Jennifer Saltman is a reporter with The Province

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