Former Peter Skene Ogden (PSO) teacher Vincent Collins won’t see any time behind bars following his sentencing in 100 Mile provincial court on Tuesday, August 1.
Collins previously pled guilty to one count of sexual interference of a person under 16 and a lesser count of assault in connection with two female youths.
Judge Linda Thomas sentenced him to a 45-day conditional sentence on the count of assault and a nine-month conditional sentence on the count of sexual interference plus 12 months probation. Collins reacted emotionally when the verdict was read out to the court.
The sentences are to be served concurrently for a total of 21 months. Six months will be served under house arrest, three months with a curfew from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. followed by 12 months of probation.
There was a list of conditions and exemptions attached to the verdict including a no-contact order with the victims and a boundary area around PSO where he is unable to go.
The 108 Mile resident was arrested in April 2021 on his way to work. According to court documents, the former teacher touched one girl above her buttocks without her consent during a “playfight” at school and another on her knee and shoulder before asking her to kiss his cheek.
At the sentencing hearing in March, Crown Counsel Julie Dufour called for a global jail term of up to two years less a day for Collins, saying it is the only way to protect unsuspecting victims.
During the hearing, Dufour submitted to the court that Collins “ingratiated” himself with the girls before sending them a series of inappropriate messages, which included dirty jokes and asking if they slept naked. Crown said he shared a nickname with one of them and gave her a book, titled A Guide to Getting It On: Unzipped, for her birthday. He also told them not to tell their mothers.
Defence lawyer Ian Donaldson maintained that Collins was not “grooming” the girls.
“I want to be clear with the court. The nature of the communications he was having with these women was inappropriate, it was wrong,” he said in March.
Thomas carefully laid out her reasoning for reaching her verdict and said that in reaching her decision she had benefited from the thorough submissions of council plus a pre-sentencing report.
The judge did not minimize the damage done to the victims or their families. She said that in the case of the one girl as the developing relationship became sexualized the situation was “nothing a child should have to face.”
Thomas referred to the victim impact statement and the effect this has had on the victim and her family, noting that she has returned to school and is attempting to take back her life.
The judge referred to a landmark case from 2020 that has had a significant impact on criminal sentencing for sexual offences against children and how to impose a sentence that fully reflects the harm of offences against children.
Six significant sentencing factors came out of that case that the judge went through as they pertained to this case: the likelihood of reoffending, the effect of the offender being someone who is a person in a position of trust, the age of the child, the degree of physical interference, victim participation and grooming a child.
She gave considerable weight to Collins pleading guilty and sparing the victims from having to go through a trial. She noted Collins had been engaged in counselling for a 16-month period, was a low to low moderate risk for reoffending according to the psychologist’s report, has no prior criminal record and has a supportive family and friends.
Donaldson said there may be some people in the public who will be disappointed Collins will not be going to jail. “On a personal level, I feel that society is better off with this outcome than we would have been if we’d locked him up,” he said. “And that’s not related to how much money it costs to keep people in jail. It’s related to the significantly destructive effect of locking people up when they don’t need to be locked up.”
Some people need to be locked up but not Vincent Collins, Donaldson said. “He has a long life to live and he is talented and capable and he will again be a productive human being and he will again have real work and contribute to society in lots of different ways. I’m convinced of that.”