A former school bus driver and City council candidate was sentenced in provincial court on Thursday for breaching an order that he have no contact with a teenage girl.
Merv Hanson received a 30-day conditional sentence — a jail term served in the community — and a year on probation for contacting the 17-year-old via the Internet.
Last September, the court imposed a six-month order pursuant to the Child and Family Act that prevented Hanson from contacting "TH," whose identity is protected by a publication ban. The term was later extended to a full year.
Hanson, 61, befriended TH while driving a school bus. At the time the court order was issued, he had already been dismissed by School District 73 for inappropriate behaviour. He fought the court action brought by the Ministry of Children and Families, arguing that his only intent was to help the girl through her difficulties and give her guitar lessons.
The girl was in foster care in 2012. Evidence heard in court last year indicated that she ran away from home after Hanson was fired and stayed at his home for four days.
In May, despite the order, he reached out to TH on the web.
"TH was at the computer and received a message," said Crown prosecutor Tim Livingston. "She indicated to him she didn't think it was appropriate to have contact."
The subject of the conversation was not germane to the charge, he added. Hanson told the girl he would notify the RCMP to admit the breach.
"The Crown is seeking real jail in this matter," Livingston said.
Hanson's defence counsel, Don Campbell, told Judge Hermann Rohrmoser that the breach was a momentary lapse in judgment triggered by emotion and alcohol.
His client, who lost several family members when he was young, had visited his mother's grave that day. Hanson has abstained from alcohol since then, he said.
"I'd like to apologize to the court," Hanson said. "I meant no disrespect."
He said subsequent counselling has provided tools to prevent a recurrence.
The judge said the public reacts strongly when someone entrusted with a child violates that trust, especially when there is a breach. Hanson's decision to contact the police may have been his way of forestalling the inevitable, he noted.
"On the positive side, the Crown says there was no misconduct."
Hanson will have to report to a probation officer, observe a nightly curfew, have no further contact with TH and not go within 500 metres of her home, school or workplace.