A former group home worker who drugged and sexually assaulted children in care has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Judge Donovan Dvorak said sexual abuse of children is among the "most reprehensible" of crimes.
"The accused took advantage of his position of authority and of the vulnerable circumstances of his victims to gratify his own sexual needs," Dvorak said.
Lionel Norman McCullough, 50, pleaded guilty last December to three counts of sexual assault offences committed against three victims between September 1984 and August 1988.
At the time, McCullough worked at a Child and Family Services group home that housed several children in a western Manitoba town.
"He had been entrusted with the care of these boys and rather than protect them he preyed on them," Dvorak said.
"The accused violated them both physically and emotionally in the most selfish and violent way."
The victims were 13, 10 and nine to 10 years old at the time, and were sexually assaulted multiple times.
The crimes came to light in 2012 when one of the victims reported the assaults. Brandon police then obtained CFS records and searched for people who may have had contact with McCullough.
"I commend these three victims, now well into their adulthood, for having the courage to come forward and talk about the abuse they suffered as children," Dvorak said.
One of the victims was listening to the sentencing via telephone and another was in court on Thursday.
The victim who was in the gallery said the emotional scars are still there nearly three decades later, and felt the sentence was too light.
"To be honest, I think he got off easy," he said. "He used to drug us, put drugs in late night snacks so we would pass out and he could take advantage of us."
The victim, now 39, said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and seizures, all stemming from the abuse.
"When something goes wrong, I don’t know how to act because right away my defence mechanisms go up," he said. "I just don’t know how to control it."
Details of the abuse were read out in court, which included how McCullough would have one of the victims sniff nail polish before sexually assaulting him.
Dvorak referred to a victim impact statement which was read in court last month. One of the victims said the impact the abuse had on his life has been devastating.
"He spoke of anger and hate towards people in authority, of difficulties in trusting people, of nightmares, of drug addiction, of wanting to kill himself," Dvorak said.
During the reading of one of the other victim impact statements last month, one of the victims suffered a seizure in the courtroom, which Dvorak said was "no doubt due to the stress of the proceedings, and having to hear again of the abuse he suffered as a child."
Further details of the crime included how the accused crushed up a pill, mixed it into a glass of milk and made one of the victims drink it before sexually assaulting him.
McCullough had lost his job in 1988 when he was charged with sexual assaults on other residents of the home. In 1989 he was sentenced to 18 months in jail and three years probation for three counts of sexual assault.
In 1991, he was convicted of another sexual assault charge and was sentenced to two years supervised probation.
Dvorak said the primary mitigating circumstance is that the accused was a young man in his early to mid-20s when he committed these crimes.
He’s now 50 years old, and Dvorak said there’s no suggestion that he’s reoffended in the decades since. He had been employed as a department store manager for more than 13 years in Vancouver prior to his arrest in January 2013.
"He has expressed remorse through his guilty pleas," Dvorak said. "He accepted full responsibility… and apologized to his victims."
McCullough has been sentenced to five years in prison, with a 10-year weapon prohibition and a 20-year Sexual Offender Information Registry Act order. There will also be an order to provide a sample of DNA while in custody.
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