A JUDGE has slapped a Canadian sex tourist with an 11-year prison sentence for having sex and producing pornography with girls in Cambodia and Colombia as young as 8, media reports said.
Kenneth Klassen, a 59-year-old father of three and an art dealer in the western city of Vancouver, pleaded guilty to charges related to having sex with underage girls, and of one count of importing his own DVDs of the acts.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Klassen came under suspicion when a package containing child pornography that he had sent to himself from the Philippines was intercepted by customs officials at Vancouver International Airport. He was arrested in September 2004 when he attempted to pick up the package.
Klassen had argued in court that Canadian laws against sex tourism did not apply to him, because the acts had taken place in other countries.
Justice Austin Cullen of the British Columbia Supreme Court dismissed the argument and in the sentencing hearing called Klassen’s behaviour “intensive, intrusive and degrading”, local media reported.
Rosalind Prober, president of the Canada-based anti-human trafficking organization Beyond Borders, applauded the jail term, which she said had sent “a message to Canadians and people around the world that child sex tourism harms children”.
But she said the fact that the final sentence came six years after police first discovered the package underscored the difficulty in stopping sex tourists. Most countries have passed laws against sex tourism, she noted, but most cases are difficult to prosecute because they take many years and countless hours of police time.
“To get someone convicted of this crime is an enormous burden,” Prober said. Only a handful of people have been convicted since Canada amended its laws in 1997 to make sex tourism a crime.
Samleang Seila, director of the local child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said yesterday that the “harsh” sentence should act as a deterrent to sex tourists who target children.
“Sentencing in foreign countries is still very rare,” he said. “The sentence under their child trafficking laws should now be the model sentence for other cases.”
“It is a harsh sentence, and should set an example,” he added.
Local media reported that, prior to being sentenced, Klassen told the court: “I’m sorry for what I’ve done with all my heart.”