Christopher Neil, the convicted pedophile who served time in a Thai prison before returning to B.C. last year, has been charged with breaching the conditions of his peace bond, a development that could lead to him heading back behind bars.
Mr. Neil gained international notoriety when photos appeared online of him sexually abusing children. He had altered his face in the images, using a digital swirl, but police were able to unscramble the images.
Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch, said Thursday the alleged breach occurred during the first week of August. He said Mr. Neil is charged with breaching the condition that prohibited him from possessing or accessing a computer, cellphone, or other device capable of accessing the Internet.
Constable Brian Montague, a Vancouver police spokesman, said Mr. Neil was arrested for being in possession of a laptop computer.
Mr. MacKenzie said in an e-mail that it would be inappropriate for him to speculate at this point on what sentence the Crown might seek in the event of a conviction.
He said the charge is subject to a maximum jail sentence of six months, as well as probation or a fine. “A jail sentence is therefore a sentencing option which is available to the court if the accused is convicted.”
Mr. Neil’s next court appearance is scheduled for September. He is not being held in custody.
Constable Montague would not discuss the circumstances leading up to the arrest, or say how police knew Mr. Neil was in possession of a computer.
Mr. Neil grew up in Maple Ridge, B.C., about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver. High school friends described him as the “guy next door,” a person who was neither popular nor unpopular.
In 1995, at the age of 20, he entered the Christ the King Seminary in Mission, B.C., to study for the Catholic priesthood. He ultimately chose to discontinue his studies.
He began looking for a teaching job and went on to work in South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
Police began looking for him in 2004, when officers in Germany discovered hundreds of images of someone abusing boys.
He was arrested in Thailand in 2007 and pleaded guilty to assaulting two boys.
When he returned to B.C. last September Mr. Neil was immediately taken into custody. He didn’t face criminal charges in Canada, but police sought the bond because they believed he was a risk to reoffend.
The 18-month bond ordered Mr. Neil to surrender his passport, stay away from places where children congregate, and not have access to the Internet.
Mark Thompson, his lawyer at the time, said Mr. Neil would willingly abide by the restrictions. A woman who answered the phone at Mr. Thompson’s office on Thursday said he was on vacation.