South Surrey man reverses child-porn plea

Douglas Bowers leaves court after pleading guilty in  2010. - File photo
Douglas Bowers leaves court after pleading guilty in 2010.
— image credit: File photo

A South Surrey man has gone to court to withdraw his guilty plea on charges of possessing and accessing child pornography.

Douglas Wayne Bowers filed an affidavit to support his application in Surrey Provincial Court last Wednesday.

The next day, while Bowers watched from the visitors gallery, his new lawyer, Robert Doran, and prosecutor Jodie Harris appeared before Judge Michael Hicks to work out how the matter will proceed.

Because the hearing of the application will review the process that led to Bowers’ guilty plea in December 2010, it is possible that Harris and Bowers’ former defence lawyer, Gordon Welock, could be called to give evidence, the court was told.

Harris said that may mean another Crown lawyer would have to take over the case.

The law covering a change of plea from guilty to not guilty allows it for a number of reasons, such as circumstances where an accused was not given good legal advice, not represented by experienced counsel, did not understand the nature of the charge or had a defence that should have been argued and wasn’t.

While the exact arguments advanced by Bowers’ affidavit were not discussed in detail during the hearing, Hicks, who read the document before coming to court, said part of it appeared to deal with “advice he (Bowers) did not receive.”

The hearing of the application has been scheduled for April 30.

The original information against the 62-year-old Bowers, a carpenter, was sworn in September 2009 after an investigation by the RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation Team led investigators to a man they called a “prolific distributor of child sexual abuse images and video online.”

While a teenaged B.C. victim was identified, police found no indication Bowers was involved in the production of child pornography.

Bowers (seen at left in 2001 file photo) pleaded guilty shortly before his three-day trial was scheduled to begin on Dec. 13, 2010.

At the time, he maintained he accidentally downloaded child porn while visiting adult-pornography websites.

“I did download porn… but you get everything,” Bowers told Peace Arch News outside court shortly before he made his plea.

“I didn’t know how to get rid of it.”

He denied he distributed the child-porn images and said he had “absolutely” no intention of viewing them.

“Child porn is sexual abuse, and I know the devastating effect of sexual abuse,” he said. “I was sexually abused as a child by a family member. It’s a devastating thing. I’ve been living with that for 50 years.”

Bowers said police told him they identified him through monitoring LimeWire, a peer-to-peer file-sharing computer program.

He turned himself in at the South Surrey RCMP station after learning a warrant had been issued for his arrest, Bowers said.

He said he pleaded guilty on the advice of his lawyer.

“It was in my computer. What else can I do?”

His sentencing hearing was postponed last year after Bowers objected to a pre-sentence report that said he deliberately downloaded the illegal porn.

He denied making any Google searches for that material, Welock told the court last fall.

He also noted other people had access to Bowers’ computer.

At the time, Welock told the court his client wasn’t trying to change his guilty plea to not guilty. Outside court, Welock said Bowers was  only making a “little denial” that went to the issue of intent.

In 2001, Bowers led a campaign to have a local skateboard park named after his son, Dave Bowers, who died after hitting his head in a snowboarding fall on Mount Seymour.

At the time of his 2010 guilty plea, Bowers said that in the years since his son’s death, he withdrew socially and became depressed, and that his surviving son hasn’t spoken to him since the child-pornography arrest.

- with files from Tracy Holmes



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