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Ex-TV reporter jailed four years for child sex assault

Family and friends of a boy who was sexually assaulted by Surrey's Ron Bencze cheered, gasped and broke down in tears when the former TV reporter was handed four years in a federal prison by a provincial court judge Tuesday morning.

Bencze, wearing a burgundy dress shirt and black tie, gave a small smile and wave to his family members as he was led into custody by sheriffs.

Last month, the 45-year-old pleaded guilty to molesting the boy, who is now a teen, between March 2003 and December 2010, when the child was between the ages of six and 14.

It was January 2011, when the victim was 14, that his mom discovered sexually explicit text messages between her son and Bencze and promptly called police. Bencze, a married father of three, was arrested shortly thereafter.

The families were close friends. There is a publication ban on any information that would identify the boy.

In delivering the four-year jail sentence in Surrey Provincial Court, Judge Robin Baird referred to the sexual assault as "deviant and unlawful" behaviour for which Bencze should pay a hefty price. He said the victim's childhood had been "blighted, if not outright stolen."

The judge said Bencze's actions were extremely difficult to understand and pointed to interviews he had with a psychiatrist just a few months ago in which he idealized the boy and said he just wanted to please him.

"In the accused mind, he, the mature adult, was the submissive party, taking the path of least resistance, participating because he didn't want the complainant to feel bad about himself or so as not to hurt his feelings," said Baird. "The accused seems to refer to the matter as if he was swept away by the ... charisma of a child and allowed himself to be borne along without much reflection."

The comments, said Baird, made him question whether, even now, Bencze appreciated the magnitude of his crime and whether the abuse would still be going on had he not been caught.

In a victim impact statement submitted to the court last month, the teen who was assaulted over several years said he was relieved the abuse had stopped and that he was trying to live and behave like a normal, average teenager. However, he said, he now has trouble trusting himself and others and feels he "missed out on a childhood that was meant for me, not the tainted one I experienced."

His mother also submitted a statement, saying the last thing she and her husband would ever have thought was that their son was being abused by a close family friend. The experience has devastated the family, she said, and there is ongoing concern about the impact it will continue to have on her son's life, as well as guilt that they could not protect him from harm.

The Crown had asked for two to three years in jail – a request which was exceeded by the judge's four-year prison sentence.

The defence wanted a conditional sentence between 18 months and two years – a sentence the judge called insufficient.

Baird said the persistent and repetitive abuse, in light of the fact Bencze had no mental health issues or history of abuse, constituted "criminal conduct of a grave and serious" nature.

"He was quite simply a normal adult with a normal background who should have known better," said Baird.

The fact he lost his career, that his family has been adversely affected and that he's received so much media attention, were all foreseeable consequences to his behaviour, Baird added.

Bencze was initially charged with three counts of sexual assault, four counts of sexual interference and two counts of invitation to sexual touching involving three people under the age of 16, but all but the one charge of sexual assault to which he pleaded guilty were stayed by the Crown.

The judge said if Bencze continues to try to gain insight into what he's done, his prospects for rehabilitation are good and he is at low risk to reoffend.

Bencze's sentence also includes a 20-year ban from being near any public place where children might be present, or working or volunteering with kids. He must also submit a DNA sample, register as a sex offender, and he is prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years.

Bencze had a long and successful career in journalism before being fired from his job at Global BC in April 2011 after his arrest.

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