Former B.C. fire chief gets seven months for possession of child porn

The 63-year-old pleaded guilty during a brief hearing last year to one count

  • Jan. 18, 2018 1:55 p.m.

By Tim Petruk – Kamloops This Week

A man described in court as a former pillar of the Barriere community was ordered Thursday to spend seven months in prison after admitting to possessing child pornography, including a number of images of children as young as five involved in sexual acts.

Al Kirkwood, the North Thompson town’s former fire chief who also served as the publisher of community newspapers in Barriere and Clearwater, was taken into custody by deputy sheriffs following an hour-long hearing in Kamloops provincial court.

READ MORE: Former publisher pleads guilty (May 9, 2017)

The 63-year-old pleaded guilty during a brief hearing last year to one count of possession of child pornography.

Search warrants were executed by police on Oct. 4, 2016, at Kirkwood’s Barriere home, as well as the town firehall and the offices of the North Thompson Star Journal and the Clearwater Times.

Crown prosecutor Frank Caputo said child pornography — still images and videos — was found on three devices seized from Kirkwood’s home. Some showed children posing with their genitals exposed and others depicted oral sex involving both other children and adults. One video described by Caputo showed a six-year-old girl performing oral sex on an adult male.

“This wasn’t simply exposure,” he said. “There are actual sexual acts being depicted. This isn’t just at the lower end because there is more than just exposure.”

Defense lawyer Michael Shapray said Kirkwood has shown remorse since the offense.

“Mr. Kirkwood lived an exemplary life,” Shapray said. “He was a community figure — a pillar.”

Court heard Kirkwood spent 23 years as Barriere’s fire chief after working for a time as the town’s grocer.

“For someone who gave everything to his community, the destruction of his reputation, his family’s reputation and everything he’s built up is complete,” Shapray said, noting Kirkwood’s Barriere home was the target of a vigilante arsonist after news of his charges became public.

“He’s someone who will have to live with that, by his own conduct.”

Shapray said Kirkwood attributed some of his offending to post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered following the devastating 2003 fires in the North Thompson Valley. But, Shapray added, Kirkwood holds himself responsible for his actions.

“He’s embarrassed by this,” Shapray said. “He’s remorseful and he accepts responsibility.”

Kamloops provincial court Judge Marianne Armstrong acknowledged Kirkwood has suffered “almost crippling shame and humiliation,” but held that child pornography is “a cancer” to society.

“It is a horrible, horrible crime,” she said. “It involves, essentially, the abuse of children for the satisfaction of others.”

In addition to the time behind bars, Armstrong placed Kirkwood on an 18-month probation term with orders barring him from visiting parks, playgrounds and pools. He will also be prohibited from owning a smartphone and can only access the internet under the supervision of his wife.

For 10 years, Kirkwood will be barred from working or volunteering in any role that puts him in a position of authority over children. He is also required to register as a sex offender for a decade and must submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database.

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