A former Saanich elementary school teacher and Boys and Girls Club leader has been handed an 18-month conditional sentence for possession of child pornography.
Travis Mitchell, 37, who taught Grades 4 and 5 at Hillcrest Elementary School, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in June 2020, when a 12-year-old’s parents found inappropriate messages and pictures on their child’s cellphone.
Mitchell was the child’s former camp leader and had been sending sexualized messages, police found after the parents approached them. Police arrested Mitchell and seized his cell phone and computer, subsequently finding approximately 500 to 700 images of child pornography.
A psychological assessment of Mitchell revealed he had been viewing child pornography for two years prior to the offence and was first introduced to it when he was 15 by a 39-year-old man with whom he had his first sexual relationship.
The assessment found Mitchell had no history of mental illness but had been thinking of suicide since his arrest. It also stated Mitchell was aware possessing child pornography perpetuated abuse and harm and that he was a low risk for sexual violence. Problems with self-awareness and coping with stress were attributed to the abuse he suffered as a child.
Letters of support from Mitchell’s father, sister, co-workers and counsellor were also taken into account. They described him as sincerely remorseful and regretful.
In Mitchell’s sentencing hearing, Crown argued for a 12-month custodial sentence followed by 12 months of community service, along with a 10-year sex offender designation, DNA order, and forfeiture of his seized cell phone and laptop. His defence suggested a 12-to-18-month conditional sentence followed by a lengthy period of community supervision, or a custodial sentence of four to six months.
In her decision on Oct. 13, Judge Karina Sacca said Mitchell’s early guilty plea, commitment to counselling, childhood trauma, and ongoing support from friends and family, among other factors, contributed to her choice to issue a conditional sentence, instead of a custodial one. She also noted that while Mitchell had a large collection of child pornography, the images were described as “animated” rather than real. Sacca said Mitchell had already faced significant humiliation and his young age suggested a good chance at rehabilitation.
The 18-month conditional sentence puts Mitchell under a four-month nightly house arrest, and prohibits him from attending public places where people under the age of 16 may be present (except with his sister), or communicating with people under the age of 16.
Mitchell is required to attend any mental health or sex offender rehabilitation programs dictated by his supervisor, is not allowed to own, possess or use a device capable of accessing any computer network, and must remain in B.C.
A 12-month probation order will follow his sentence and Mitchell will be listed as a designated sex offender for 10 years.
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