Monday, September 8, 1996

Rattan Mall

More sex charges against B.C. school principal

Police pumped up their probe into accused child pornographer William Bennest yesterday as his lawyer warned it's unlikely he'll get a fair trial.

Three new charges — including sexual assault and sexual touching of a boy under 14 — were laid against Bennest, 52, the suspended principal of Clinton elementary school in Burnaby.

Bennest, who now faces five sex and pornography charges, will appear in Vancouver provincial court tomorrow for a bail hearing.

He is in jail this weekend after the Crown changed its mind about agreeing to release him when he appeared in court Friday, said defence lawyer Peter Leask.

"They think they have a stronger case," said Leask.

"Their position is also that their case is so strong that any rational person would wish to flee the jurisdiction."

He said police say Bennest is a danger to society.

Leask said he would seek a ban on publication of evidence when Bennest goes to court tomorrow.

"(Bennest) is entitled to one," he said. "If you were charged, I don't think you would like this amount of media attention."

He said the publicity surrounding Bennest's arrest had ruled out the possibility of a fair trial: "I think it would be difficult to select (a fair jury) today.

"I think the public is influenced by the media… I think he has been convicted by the media."

Vancouver police Insp. Ken Doern said the Crown changed its mind about releasing Bennest because "of the gravity and scope of this investigation and the age of the people involved."

Bennest is charged with making child pornography, possessing child pornography, sexual touching of a boy under 14, sexual assault of the boy and procuring the sexual services of a boy under 18.

Police are checking school records to see if the two youths had been students at any of Bennest's schools.

Police so far have examined 43 video-cassettes seized from Bennest's west-side Vancouver home.

They're trying to identify the people in them, and determine if the videos were being marketed.

They're examining five audio tapes, apparently recordings of conversations and numerous photographs, magazines and posters.

They're also looking at daily journals seized from Bennest's school office.

Up to 10 detectives, using six VCR players, have looked at the 43 video tapes.

"It's traumatic on the investigators and you can't do it hour after hour after hour, looking at child pornography," said Doern.

He said the videos depicted only males.

"There is an adult in the videos,' Doern said when asked if the accused was in the videos.

All five charges carry a maximum sentence of between five and 10 years.

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Created: September 8, 1996
Last modified: November 26, 2000
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
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