A Belgian man who pursued a forbidden love affair with a 13-year-old girl and travelled to Canada to start a life with her was sentenced Thursday to 20 months in jail.
Vincent Raphael Duval, 32, listened intently as he was sentenced by Quebec court Judge Jean-Pierre Bonin, who acknowledged that Mr. Duval's case was different than that of Internet predators who use the web to stalk young girls strictly for sexual purposes.
Still, Justice Bonin said the court had concluded that jail time was necessary.
Mr. Duval has told the court it was love that drove him to sell his possessions and move to Canada with designs on starting a life with the teen.
Mr. Duval pleaded guilty to six charges including kidnapping, sexual interference, sexual touching and three counts of luring with a computer less than a week after being arrested in a Montreal hotel.
The Crown was seeking at least five years in prison for the native of Liege, while the defence had countered with a suggestion of 12 to 18 months in jail.
Defence lawyer Daniel Lighter expressed satisfaction with the sentence handed down.
"(The judge) distinguished between this being a typical child pornography or pedophilia case with what it was - which was a very poor example of judgment on the part of Mr. Duval," said Mr. Lighter.
Crown prosecutor Nathalie Fafard declined to comment.
In her sentencing arguments, she had implored the judge to send a message to Canadian society and the international community at-large that Mr. Duval's actions were unacceptable.
Ms. Fafard told the judge there weren't any similar cases in Canadian legal annals and that most luring cases tried in Canada have involved undercover police officers posing as children, with no real victims.
But Mr. Duval's lawyers stuck with the notion that their client was simply a love-struck 30-something who fell in love with someone he thought was older than her 13 years and was unable to shake that resolve, following his heart rather than his head when he discovered her true identity.
A chance meeting on a virtual dance web site in October 2007, with the girl posing as a 26-year-old female, began the eight-month love affair.
The relationship blossomed over e-mail and chats - more than 6,000 missives between the pair through Hotmail accounts - until the girl's mother caught wind of what her daughter was up to in February when she received an astronomical cellular phone bill.
About halfway into the courtship, the girl's mother called Mr. Duval and told him to leave her daughter alone. It was just before that when the girl revealed to Mr. Duval she was 13.
But the attempt to thwart the relationship only intensified it and the court heard that the pair had hatched an elaborate plan to move to an Amish settlement in Ontario where they felt they would not be bothered.
Mr. Duval purchased a one-way plane ticket and arrived from Belgium on June 12 with his entire savings - $3,200 - all his clothes, a laptop, webcam, cellular telephone and no credit card.
They eventually met up the following day before the mother reported the girl missing, prompting a city-wide manhunt until a hotel clerk recognized Mr. Duval in the wee hours of June 14.
Montreal police caught Mr. Duval in bed with the girl at a St-Hubert Street hotel in a dingy neighbourhood near the Montreal bus station.