Sexually explicit letters delivered to local schools are more fantasy than any representation of reality, a defence lawyer told a judge Wednesday.
Ken Sommerfeld made the comments as he sought bail for his client, Lowell Swetman, 45, who is charged with distributing child pornography, criminal harassment and mailing obscene materials. He was arrested Dec. 10 near Valleyview secondary school.
At the time of his arrest, police said an undercover squad had been following a man for three days after he emerged as a suspect in RCMP's investigation of the obscene letters.
The letters were mailed to the North Shore and Westsyde schools in November. Police have never released the contents of the documents, other than saying they detailed sexual fantasies involving children. No kids were specifically threatened.
There is no doubt the letters are disturbing, Sommerfeld said, and seem to advocate for sexual activity between adults and children.
But they are a far cry from photographic or video pornography that victimizes real children, he said.
"Unlike the horrible reality of photographic and video child pornography, no child was harmed in making this material," the lawyer said.
"When we look at the letters, these are not writings and drawings created by a person who ever did such a thing. They are not reality based.
"It does enter the realm of fantasy - they are explicit and disturbing - but they are not realistic . . . ," he said.
Sommerfeld asked the court to release Swetman on strict conditions, including house arrest. The man is not likely to "bend the rules" and will not pose a risk to public safety, the lawyer suggested.
Swetman lacks social skills and some degree of cognitive functioning. He suffered a head injury in a car accident three years ago, but it's not clear if that has impacted his mental functioning.
"He is a middle-aged man who has never had an intimate partner and lives with his (elderly) mother," Sommerfeld said.
While he will pose little risk to the public on bail, he faces great risk in prison if he is detained, the court was told. The man has been segregated from the prison population in solitary confinement since his arrest. He is locked in a cell by himself for 23 hours a day.
"It's been him, his Bible and four walls since Dec. 10," said Sommerfeld.
Prosecutor Stephen Lawhead said the Crown wants Swetman detained, fearing he poses a risk to reoffend.
Bail hearings are about assessing risk, Lawhead said. In this case, it's difficult to evaluate what risk Swetman poses as there is little known about him.
The crimes are serious, however, and caused great alarm in the schools and neighbourhoods that received the letters, he said.
"There is a lot to glean from the evidence; some conclusions can be reached," said Lawhead. "He appears to struggle very much with his inner demons.
"He appears to have a fantasy life that has considerable power over him . . . and does not appear to have great understanding of the forces that have control over him."
Provincial court judge Stephen Harrison reserved his decision on whether to detain or release Swetman pending his trial until Monday.
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