A high-risk sex offender who absconded from a Dartmouth halfway house this spring just three days after he arrived there has been handed a three-year prison sentence.
Joshua James Turner, 35, was arrested walking along Highway 118 a few hours after he was reported missing from the Jamieson Community Correctional Centre on May 26.
Police confirmed Turner had broken into Waverley Memorial School while on the loose. The only thing he took from the school was a Boston Bruins hat.
Turner pleaded guilty last week in Dartmouth provincial court to charges of breaching a long-term supervision order and break and enter.
Judge Dan MacRury reserved his sentencing decision until this week, when he accepted a joint recommendation from lawyers and gave Turner two years for the breach and an additional year for the break-in.
“A strong message has to go out to both Mr. Turner and to anybody who is on a long-term order in a halfway house,” MacRury said.
“If you walk out that door, there are going to be severe consequences.”
Turner came before the court with more than 40 prior adult convictions, mostly for offences in Winnipeg.
He was convicted of sexual assault in 2004 and two counts of sexual assault with a weapon in 2015, from a March 2013 incident at a dental clinic. Armed with a pair of scissors, he sexually assaulted two women at the clinic.
In July 2015, while incarcerated at the Warkworth Institution in Ontario, Turner made sexually inappropriate comments to a female staffer during an interview and then grabbed her by her arms and shoulders.
He was released from the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., this May after serving all four years and three months of his sentence. He then became subject to a 10-year, long-term supervision order imposed by the judge in Winnipeg.
Turner’s record also includes convictions for making indecent phone calls, making harassing phone calls, committing an indecent act, break and enter, forcible entry, public mischief, escaping custody, obstructing police, and 27 counts of breaching probation.
The Parole Board of Canada, in an August 2017 decision ordering his continued detention, said he had been assessed as a high risk for sexual, violent and non-violent recidivism.
“You are considered a high-needs, high-risk offender with a multitude of … areas requiring significant intervention,” the parole board said.
The decision said Turner suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, major depressive disorder, borderline intellectual function and antisocial personality disorder and has shown a pattern of persistent violent behaviour.
“You have demonstrated indifference towards your victims and do not appear to understand the consequences of your behaviour,” the board said.
“While you have completed some programming, the board notes that few gains were noted. … Your case management team does not believe there are any supervision strategies that would be adequate to manage your risk in the community, and the board concurs with (that) opinion.”
In 2014, Turner described himself to a psychologist as a sex addict. “I guess you could say when I see a woman, I want to have sex with her,” he said. “If she says no, I’m going to sexually assault her. I can’t sugar-coat it. That’s the way it is.”
At the sentencing hearing in Dartmouth, Crown attorney Rick Hartlen said Turner would have, or should have, been aware of his need for the highly structured supervision that was available at the Jamieson centre.
“We can be quite thankful … that he was apprehended as quickly as he was,” Hartlen said. “Society in our province was very much at risk while Mr. Turner was at large.”
Defence lawyer Karen Endres said Turner has become institutionalized and reoffended only because he wanted to go back into custody.
“His reoffending in this situation was not of a sexual nature,” she said. “It was not in a violent manner.”
Endres said her client had a horrible upbringing that left him with significant trauma, mental health issues and intellectual deficits. “Mr. Turner … clearly presents a very complex situation,” she said. “From his perspective, he has not received programs and services while in custody to support him in his successful reintegration into the community.”
The judge said he will “strongly urge” the Correctional Service of Canada to make sure Turner receives the proper mental health treatment.
“In my view, that’s not just for Mr. Turner’s benefit, that’s for the public’s benefit, to ensure that when he is released into society, the public is protected,” MacRury said.