Former Maple Ridge resident and convicted child sex tourist Christopher Neil, who was arrested returning to B.C. Friday after serving a jail sentence in Thailand, will appear in a Richmond court Monday.
Neil, 37, landed at Vancouver International Airport on Friday after spending four years behind bars in Thailand for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy and his nine-year-old brother, and distributing child pornography.
Neil, who once worked in B.C. as a teacher, was arrested in 2007 after a global manhunt, prompted after digitally altered photos of himself sexually assaulting children were posted to Internet sites. Neil’s “swirly-faced” digital photos were decoded by German computer experts so his face could be recognizable.
He was convicted in Thailand in 2007 and sentenced in 2008. At the time of his trial, Thai officials indicated he could be extradited once his sentence was compete.
The RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation Unit said over the weekend police were made aware of Neil’s return and obtained a warrant for his arrest under a seldom-used section of the Canadian Criminal Code.
Under Section 810.1 (1), police can take a person into custody is that person’s actions cause fear of sexual offences to a person under 16. Under the same section, a judge can order that person to appear in a Provincial Court.
The judge can also order the person to be placed under watch for up to two years, and prevented from communicating with children under 16 years old unless supervised, using the Internet, going to public parks or swimming pools or schoolyards, or placing other conditions on their activities.
“Neil has no criminal record in Canada, but his actions in other countries were such that police felt it important to have him appear in front of a court so any public safety concerns can be addressed,” said RCMP Cpl. Matt Van Laer.
Conditions under Section 810 are really a form of probation or a peace bond, Van Laer said.
It’s expected the judge will place conditions on Neil, and if he refuses, he faces jail time.
If he does not contest any conditions placed on him, he could be released.
There is also a warrant out for Neil’s arrest in Cambodia. The Thai charges stem from incidents that happened in Vietnam and Cambodia, but Neil fled to Thailand, where he was eventually arrested.
“Should Christopher Neil go back to Cambodia, he would have to answer to justice over there,” Van Laer said.
But under the Child Sex Tourism provisions of the Criminal Code, it’s punishable by Canadian law if a person travels outside the country to commit sexual offences against children there. If not convicted in that country the suspect can be tried and jailed in Canada.
Van Laer said the law is typically invoked when child sex tourism is not considered punishable by law in the foreign country, but charges remain the decision of the Department of Justice.
Former RCMP forensic scientist and founder of Cambodia-based NGO Ratanak International, Brian McConaghy, said he hopes the Crown will proceed with the charges related to the alleged Cambodia offences.
“I’m aware of his activities in other countries, and it’s significant,” said McConaghy, who said he’s seen the evidence both as a member of the RCMP and under the auspices of his organization.
But if the Crown is not prepared to move on charges, that decision should be public, he said.
“If not, why not? What is the impediment here? We’ve gone to a great deal of time, energy and effort to get extraterritorial legislation. This is not an extradition issue. He’s flown in. He’s landed in our lap.”
McConaghy also worked on the case against Donald Bakker, Canada’s first convicted sex tourist. Bakker was released this June after serving a seven-year sentence for sexually assaulting three Vancouver women and seven Cambodian girls.
Numerous conditions were placed on his release.