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Judge shows mercy in child-pornography case

Reveals own homophobic past in giving man break

Judge Robert Heinrichs when he was sworn in back in 2009.

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Judge Robert Heinrichs when he was sworn in back in 2009. (DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Life has not been easy for Ray Troughton.

The 58-year-old Winnipeg man was shunned by his own family as a teen after revealing he was homosexual and has struggled to hold down a job while battling homelessness, health and legal issues.

But Troughton caught a break Wednesday when he appeared in court to plead guilty to possessing child pornography. A former landlord had discovered four pictures of naked young boys Troughton had left behind in 2010.

'I can imagine it was a lonely, difficult world for you. The hell you've gone through'

-- Judge Robert Heinrichs, to Winnipegger who pleaded guilty to possessing child porn

The Crown wanted a real jail sentence of two months. But provincial court Judge Robert Heinrichs said it was the type of case that called for mercy and empathy.

"I can imagine it was a lonely, difficult world for you," Heinrichs said upon hearing about Troughton's background, which was captured in a pre-sentence report. "The hell you've gone through."

The judge then went a step further, noting he was about the same age as Troughton and related his own experience while growing up in a Mennonite community where homosexuality "was not accepted."

"I was probably as guilty as some of my friends of calling the guy who was different a fag or some other words. When I think back on it, I'm ashamed of some of the things that we did," said Heinrichs, displaying the type of personal candour rarely seen from the bench.

"We were probably really cruel and not fair and didn't understand. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the one guy I'm thinking of in particular. I don't know where he is now."

Troughton was given a three-year suspended sentence with probation on Wednesday. His conditions include not being alone with anyone under the age of 16, sex-offender counselling and performing 100 hours of community service.

"I'm just really sorry any of this happened in the first place. I want to get this part of my life behind me," Troughton told the judge.

The Crown admitted the case was on the "low end" of the child-pornography scale given the small number and type of images. It also pre-dated legislative changes that make possession a mandatory stint behind bars.

Defence lawyer Todd Bourcier said it's clear Troughton has yet to deal with many outstanding issues relating to his own sexuality and lack of acceptance from loved ones.

"He was born into an environment where his sexuality was criminalized," he said. The four illegal images had been given to him by a friend in 2005 as part of a larger package including adult pornography, court was told.

"He'd like to get some counselling to understand his motivation," said Bourcier.

Troughton has a previous criminal record that dates back to the 1970s and includes an indecent assault conviction involving a child.

He will be placed on the national sex-offender registry for the next 10 years.

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