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This article was published 14/8/2015 (772 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A convicted drug trafficker who preyed on girls in CFS care by giving them cocaine and marijuana for sex has been sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison.
The four victims were girls in CFS care living at Brandon group homes.
"These are individuals who are troubled people, vulnerable people, and Mr. Duff obviously took advantage of their situation in a way to satiate his own sexual needs," Judge John Combs said during Thursday’s sentencing in Brandon provincial court.
Joshua Allan Duff, 30, pleaded guilty earlier in the week to harbouring children in care, four counts of sexual interference and to procuring sex from three girls.
Sentencing was then set for Thursday.
At the time pleas were entered, Crown attorney Grant Hughes shared details of the girls’ police statements.
Hughes said that, between February 2010 and October 2014, Duff gave four girls — aged 13 to 15 — cocaine and marijuana to have sex with him at his home.
One girl had sex with Duff for cocaine 15 to 20 times.
Hughes said three of the victims were residents of Patrick House. The fourth victim was living at a group home licensed through Dakota Ojibway Child and Family services.
Patrick House is a stabilization home for boys and girls 13 to 17 years old with troubled backgrounds. They have such challenges as trauma, mental health issues or addictions.
The Brandon Sun has talked to former Patrick House residents and their families with the view to publishing a feature at a later date.
Former residents and guardians have questioned whether Patrick House can handle the high-risk girls it receives. They’ve questioned its supervision, and the qualification and interest of its staff.
One former resident said she only developed drug and alcohol addictions after going to Patrick House. Residents at the co-ed home are said to help each other secure alcohol and drugs.
CFS of Western Manitoba CEO Dave McGregor said the provincially licensed home meets provincial staffing standards and staff do what they can to find girls who go AWOL.
"Our staff are making many, many, many efforts above and beyond to try and keep these kids safe," McGregor said.
That includes staff calling police, as required, and trying to track down girls when they run off from the home which is an unlocked facility.
Residents come to the home with complex challenges that make them vulnerable to exploitation, McGregor said. The girls weren’t abused simply because they were at Patrick House.
The home figures prominently in the courtroom account, he said, because the agency worked with authorities and police to build a case against Duff.
"We’ve been trying to deal with this guy for years," McGregor said.
In particular, the CFS agency worked with the sexual exploitation unit, part of the Child Protection Branch, based in Winnipeg.
McGregor indicated there may be other victims. Early in the investigation, 10 possible victims were identified and, of those, two were from Patrick House. The others were either in group homes run by another agency, or living at their family home.
In August 2014, CFS of Western Manitoba’s lawyer sent Duff a letter telling him to "cease and desist" in harbouring, providing cocaine to, and sexually exploiting two particular girls in its care.
In addition, Hughes stated that the agency applied for a protection order for one of those girls under the Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act.
Duff admitted to breaching that order while in jail, by having a third party on the outside arrange phone calls to the girl.
Court heard that that 15-year-old girl, also from Patrick House, had sex with Duff for cocaine too. She
later had a relationship with him and she’s not the subject of any charges he pleaded guilty to, and so he hasn’t admitted to those specific allegations.
At least three of the girls Duff admitted to sexually exploiting said he knew how old they were. Duff told court that the girls claimed to be 16, but admitted that he neglected to verify their age.
Combs sentenced him to a total of 46 months in jail atop two months remand time.
That sentence was based on a joint recommendation by Crown and defence that Combs described as "extremely lenient."
However, Combs said he recognized that the Crown may have had a tough time proving its case without Duff’s ultimate admissions.
In the young victims — each of which have appeared before court on their own charges in the past — the Crown was dealing with potentially reluctant witnesses whose reliability might be questioned.
Defence lawyer Bob Harrison noted that Duff himself lived in the child welfare system and was physically and emotionally abused in foster homes.
His record includes a conviction in August 2014 for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. He was under house arrest for that offence at the time he abused the girls.
Hughes said one of Duff’s rules for the girls was that they could only come to his home in the evening.
He knew the judge that imposed the house arrest restricted police searches of his home to twice a month from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Duff was later arrested for breaching that prior sentence on Feb. 19, at which point he was arrested for the offences against the girls.
His conditional sentence was terminated and he has been in custody since.
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