Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Ottawa bristles as US court sends sex offender up north

AFP , OTTAWA

Canada will not become a haven for US criminals, Immigration Minister Monte Solberg said on Monday after a New York court exiled a convicted pedophile to the US' northern neighbor in lieu of jail.

"I am not going to comment on an individual case. I am going to tell you that anyone who is a non-citizen and is living in Canada, that we perceive to be a threat to the public, we are going to remove him as quickly as we can," Solberg told reporters outside the House of Commons in Ottawa.

In an unusual plea bargain, US citizen Malcolm Watson, 35, agreed to live outside the country for three years as punishment for having had sex with a 15-year-old female student in his car.

The sentence is in lieu of serving one year in jail, according to reports.

Go north, or...

The Cheektowaga Town Court approved his sentence. The girl's parents also commended the sentence to avoid a public trial where she would have to testify, the Toronto Star reported.

Watson, lives with his Canadian wife and three children in Fort Erie, Ontario, across the border from Buffalo, New York, where he taught at a prep school.

Under the current law, he can only enter the US to report to his probation officer.

If Watson is barred re-entry into Canada, however, he would have to return to court.

`Creative'

In an interview with the Star, Buffalo immigration lawyer Robert Kolken called the sentence "quite creative," but warned that it may be difficult to enforce.

"The real issue is whether it's legal or not," he told the newspaper. "It's unheard of to bar a US citizen from his country."

The Buffalo News quoted Watson's lawyer, Oscar Smukler, saying that he had researched Canadian legal documents and thought it "unlikely that Canada will do anything" to upset the arrangement.

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