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Man, 40, jailed for luring Truro girl on internet


Halifax provincial courthouse is seen on Tuesday, July 25.
Matthew Russell Ward, 40, who now lives in Fredericton, pleaded guilty in January to a charge of luring and was sentenced recently in Halifax provincial court. - Steve Bruce
HALIFAX, N.S. —

A former Halifax man who lured a 14-year-old girl over the internet for a sexual purpose has been sentenced to 90 days in jail, to be served on weekends, followed by probation.

Matthew Russell Ward, 40, pleaded guilty in January to a charge of luring.

Ward, who now lives in Fredericton, was sentenced recently in Halifax provincial court by Judge Amy Sakalauskas.

The judge described Ward’s behaviour as “predatory” and said he was “insistent and persistent” in online conversations with a Truro teenager.

The court heard that Ward, using a fake identity, sent a Facebook friend request to the girl Sept. 7, 2017. The pair communicated that day and again Sept. 10.

After learning the girl was in Grade 9, Ward suggested they hang out and offered to supply her with alcohol. He said he could get a hotel room and asked if she could sneak out of the house while her parents were asleep and spend the night with him.

He called her “sweet stuff,” told her she was beautiful and said he wanted to make out with her and have unprotected sex.

The teen sent him a selfie after he asked for a picture, but she declined his repeated requests to meet for sex in a hotel room, in his car or at her house.

The girl’s mother discovered the messages on Sept. 14 and contacted the authorities. When police tried to send the man a message from the girl’s Facebook account, they discovered she had been blocked.

Ward was arrested in May 2018, when police executed a search warrant at his Halifax home.

Crown attorney Sylvia Domaradzki recommended a sentence of nine to 12 months in jail, as well as probation.

Defence lawyer Wayne Bacchus challenged the constitutionality of the mandatory minimum penalty of six months in jail, saying it would be cruel and unusual punishment in his client’s circumstances. He suggested a suspended sentence with probation, or a conditional sentence and probation.

A presentence report said Ward is on medication for anxiety and has also suffered from depression. He has been an analyst with the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Resource Development since November 2018.

Dr. Brad Kelln, a psychologist who has been seeing Ward since May 2018, said he is a low risk to reoffend.

Kelln said Ward was using online chatting as an escape mechanism to cope with stress at the time of the offence. He said the online activity triggered a neurological process and a resulting sense of euphoria.

The psychologist said Ward now has healthy coping mechanisms and has gained insight into his behaviour. He said Ward recognizes that he was on the road to hands-on offending and knows he must be diligent to stop this trajectory.

Ward addressed the court, apologizing to the victim and her family and saying he was ashamed and disgusted by what he did. He explained he was going through a dark time in his personal life and experiencing anxiety when he committed the offence and is thankful for the support he has received since his arrest.

In her sentencing decision, the judge said the crime has had a considerable impact on the victim, now 16, ranging from insecurity to serious mental health issues. She said the incident has affected the girl’s day-to-day activities and relationships.

 “Mr. Ward knowingly broke the law when he targeted her for his own gratification,” Sakalauskas said. “He is solely to blame for stepping well outside our collective social values in talking with her.

”Crimes against children, and especially sexual crimes against children, run contrary to our society’s core values.”

The judge disagreed with the defence lawyer’s description of the offence as the least egregious situation of luring he could think of, but said “it’s not the most egregious either.”

Sakalauskas said the offence required a period of incarceration, but not as long as recommended by the Crown. She then ruled that the six-month mandatory minimum sentence contained in the Criminal Code would be “grossly disproportionate” for Ward.

After he serves his intermittent jail time, Ward will be on probation for two years. He must take part in any counselling deemed necessary by his probation officer and cannot associate with or be in the company of anyone under the age of 18 unless another adult is present.

The judge also prohibited him from possessing or using any device capable of accessing the internet, except while in the immediate presence of another adult.

Ward was ordered to provide a DNA sample for a national databank and register as a sex offender for a period of 10 years. The judge also granted forfeiture of two electronic devices used in the commission of the offence.
 

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