A former television news reporter has been sentenced to four years in prison for sexually assaulting the son of a family friend.
Ron Bencze, 45, is also prohibited for 20 years from attending public areas where children under 16 may be present – such as parks, swimming areas, school grounds and daycares – and cannot possess firearms for 10 years. He must also provide a sample for the National DNA Data Bank.
The former Global TV reporter was initially charged with nine counts of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching in incidents involving three minors over the course of about a decade. Last year, Mr. Bencze pleaded not guilty to all nine.
In exchange for pleading guilty last month to one count of sexually assaulting a minor, Crown counsel stayed the remaining eight charges.
Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said the Crown assessed the circumstances as a whole and concluded it was appropriate to proceed on a single count.
Mr. Bencze's guilty plea to the "serious, protracted behaviour in relation to the initial complainant who came forward" represents the most significant allegation that was made against him, Mr. MacKenzie said.
Regarding that charge, the court heard that the sexual assaults started when the boy was seven or eight years old and spanned about seven years. The victim's mother went to police last January after discovering explicit text messages from Mr. Bencze on the teen's cellphone.
Mr. Bencze had engaged in masturbation and oral sex with the boy at Mr. Bencze's home, the court heard. In a victim impact statement, the teen said he had a tainted childhood, and finds it difficult to trust himself and others in certain situations.
Crown had recommended between two and three years in prison and adding Mr. Bencze's name to the sex offender registry, while Mr. Bencze's lawyers had sought a conditional sentence of 18 to 24 months, followed by probation.
Provincial Court Judge Robin Baird deemed the Crown's recommendation too lenient and upped the sentence to four years.
Mr. MacKenzie acknowledged Tuesday it is "relatively infrequent" for a judge to impose a higher sentence than what the Crown was seeking. "I think we're probably more accustomed to finding a sentence that is what we're seeking, or lower than what we're seeking, but we certainly respect the authority of the court to impose what it concludes is the appropriate sentence," he said.
Mr. Bencze was arrested and charged in January, 2011. Global TV suspended him with pay and fired him three months later.