11 years for sex tourist who 'loves women too much'
The Canadian sex tourist who told police he was "guilty of loving women too much" has been handed an 11-year prison sentence for having sex with girls ranging in age from eight to 14.
On Wednesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced Kenneth Klassen to 10 years behind bars for 14 counts of sexual touching and another year for a child pornography charge.
Prosecutors in the case argued the father of three should serve at least 12 years in prison for his crimes.
Calling him "opportunistic and organized," Justice Austin Cullen rejected the defence argument that Klassen was just a "customer" in a transaction with sex-trade workers, saying the girls were very young and vulnerable.
The judge added that Klassen abused his position of trust and subjected the girls to a wide range of invasive sexual acts, including using dildos, having intercourse with children under nine-years-old and directing his victims for his own sexual gratification.
The 59-year-old pleaded guilty to 15 counts involving girls in Cambodia and Colombia in May after a failed constitutional challenge to Canada's child-sex tourism law.
Crown lawyer Brendan McCabe told a B.C. Supreme Court judge at Klassen's sentencing hearing that the Burnaby, B.C., man was caught trying to ship 21 homemade DVDs back to Canada that contained images of him having sex with prepubescent girls.
McCabe said that, according to witness statements, Klassen gave the girls cash and gifts and even offered to pay for a thyroid operation for one girl, but that never materialized.
He said some of the victims were offered the equivalent of $45, "which would have been like a king's ransom."
One girl told investigators she met Klassen when she was 11 years old.
Klassen originally faced three dozen charges in connection to allegations that spanned from 1998 to 2002, but just as his trial was about to start he pleaded guilty to 15 counts involving sex with the underage girls and one count of importing child pornography.
The DVDs containing bestiality and child pornography were discovered by customs officers in a package of bedding that Klassen had sent to himself from abroad. Among the titles in his home-made collection were "First Timer" and "Child Abuse."
A search of Klassen's home and storage locker revealed more child pornography including children between the ages of seven and 17, as well as homemade DVDs of the offender having sex with teens and preteens.
Klassen, who lived in Colombia on and off for the past 20 years, employed a man named "Ricardo" who went out into the community and brought girls back to his hotel room. He also paid a woman who lived with him in Columbia to edit the videos he took of the encounters and blur his face.
Justice Cullen said the fact he videotaped his victims reflects a callous attitude and preoccupation with his own sexual pleasure over the harm it caused to the girls.
Sex tourism prosecution
Klassen was charged under the rarely used sex-tourism law, which allows prosecution of someone in Canada for criminal acts in another country. Only three other Canadian men have been prosecuted under the law since it was enacted in 1997.
Vancouver hotel employee Donald Bakker was the first in 2005. He received a 10-year sentence for 10 sexual assaults on girls between seven and 12 in Cambodia, where he videotaped the abuse.
And in November of 2008, two Quebec aid workers pleaded guilty in a Quebec City courtroom to sexually abusing teenage boys while working at an orphanage in Haiti. Armand Huard was sentenced to three years in prison and Denis Rochefort was given two years.
Had Klassen been prosecuted in the countries involved, McCabe said, he would have faced up to 20 years in prison with hard labour.
A small victory
Women's groups say Klassen's prosecution is a "small victory" for prostituted girls and women.
"The inequalities between the rich and poor, white and non-white, men and women, and the Global North and Global South, Klassen exploited all of these inequalities and used his power and privilege, as a rich white man from the Global North, to rape girls," said Daisy Kler of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter.
Kler said Klassen exploited the fact the girls were destitute and came from poverty stricken countries.
"We want men to get the message that when men buy girls and women, the criminal justice system will act swiftly and use the law to sanction this sexual violence."
Before his sentencing, Klassen stood up and apologized, telling the judge he was "sorry for what I have done with all my heart."
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry