Ex B'nai Brith head ashamed of child porn
Friday, October 29, 2010
The former director of B'nai Brith Quebec says he's ashamed he had pornographic videos on his computer, but Bill Surkis maintains he's not a sex offender.
Surkis, 71, has admitted to downloading nearly nine hours of videos of men engaged in sexual activity with girls, but said it was because he was curious.
At his sentencing hearing in a Quebec Superior Court in Montreal on Thursday Surkis's lawyer asked him how he would feel if his name were added to the national sex offender registry as the Crown is requesting.
The father and grandfather said he still has contributions to make to his community and he wouldn't be able to make them if he were registered.
The Crown and the defence are recommending Surkis be sentenced to 45 days in jail to be served on weekends, the minimum sentence allowed by law.
They're also recommending he be placed on probation for three years and do 240 hours of community service.
Explicit files were discovered on Surkis's computer when he took it in for repairs in 2008.
The technician contacted Montreal police who uncovered 21 videos and dozens of photos, including images of girls aged six to 13.
Surkis's lawyer said in November 2009 that the videos were downloaded for research reasons.
"The purpose of his viewing the child pornography material [was] to educate himself on the topic of child pornography," lawyer Steven Slimovitch told CBC News outside court. "Then he would go into schools and give lectures on people abusing people."
But, prosecutors argued in court that there was no evidence to back up that claim. Surkis had not been hired by anyone to research child pornography and had not begun work on a study, they said.
In May, Surkis agreed to a plea bargain. In return for pleading guilty to charges of possessing and accessing child pornography, Crown prosecutor Cynthia Gyenizse dropped a charge of distributing child pornography.
Surkis served as the academic dean at John Abbott College on Montreal's west island for 22 years. He also served as the executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Montreal.
Slimovitch provided the court with eight letters of reference on his client's behalf in which Surkis is described as honest, truthful, and a man of exemplary character.
Gyenizse said although Surkis may be at low risk to re-offend, she said the risk is not zero.
She said the court needs to send a message that when people do what Surkis did they help feed the child pornography industry, creating more child victims.
"Possession will help the people who produce child pornography to produce more because there's a demand for it so there's an industry for it," she said.
Judge Céline Lamontagne will hand down her sentence Dec. 9.