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UPDATE: Former reporter Ron Bencze pleads guilty to child sexual assault

Former TV news reporter Ron Bencze pleaded guilty this morning in Surrey Provincial Court to sexually assaulting a child over a period of several years.

The sexual assault of a boy took place from March 2003 to December 2010, beginning when the child was as young as seven or eight.

The victim was 14 years old in January 2011 when his mother discovered sexually explicit text messages between her son and Bencze. The families were close friends.

Bencze, 45, was arrested shortly thereafter and, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court Thursday, he disclosed sexual contact that had taken place "over a number of years." The court heard Bencze had engaged in masturbation, oral and manual sex with the child in the Bencze home.

In a victim impact statement read in court, the victim said he was confused and knew what was happening to him was wrong, but did not know what to do.

He said he knows it has affected him emotionally and is often frustrated.

"It has been difficult to trust others or trust myself in some situations," wrote the boy, adding he's trying to live and behave like a normal teenager.

"I feel that I have missed out on a childhood that was meant for me, not the tainted one I experienced."

A statement from his mom expressed the guilt she and her husband carry as parents, not seeing what was happening to their son for so many years. She said the entire experience has been "devastating" and "embarrassing" for the family and she worries about how her son will cope with it now and in the future.

"(He) had his pride taken away," she wrote.

The Crown is asking for two to three years in jail. Defence has recommended an 18- to 24-month conditional sentence.

Crown prosecutor Jennifer Lopes said a psychiatrist's report noted Bencze is not a pedophile, but immature and needy.

Defence lawyer Richard Peck pointed to the intense media coverage of Bencze's arrest and court proceedings, saying it has "accentuated his substantial fall from grace."

Bencze, a married father of three, had a lengthy, award-winning career in journalism before being fired from his job at Global BC in April 2011 after his arrest.

He has not been permitted to live with his family in Surrey since his arrest and visits with his children have been under supervision only.

Peck said his client had made numerous attempts to secure a job, to no avail, and has since started his own software and technology company. A lengthy jail term, argued Peck, would remove his ability to support his family.

Bencze was originally charged last year with nine sex-related offences involving three alleged victims. It's expected the remaining eight charges will be stayed when he is sentenced.

"The charge that he's pleaded guilty to represents the most significant allegations that were made against Mr. Bencze," said Crown spokesperson Neil MacKenzie on the decision to seek prosecution on the single charge.

In a statement read for Bencze by Peck, he said he is not looking for sympathy or asking for forgiveness.

"I can only do what's right and take responsibility for what I have done. I know I have no one to blame but myself."

His next court date is Aug. 28.

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