Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bordering on a crazy ruling

The Canadian government said on Tuesday it was most unhappy that a U.S. judge had sentenced a sex offender to a three-year term of "exile" in Canada rather than a jail sentence at home.

The New York state judge accepted a proposal from former teacher Malcolm Watson, 35 -- convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl -- that he be allowed to live in Canada on probation and not spend time in a U.S. jail.

Watson, a U.S. citizen, lives in the town of Fort Erie, Ontario, with his wife and children. He had commuted to work at a girls' school in nearby Buffalo, New York.

The U.S. judge ruled Watson can return to the United States only to report to his parole officer.

"I was infuriated to see an American court decision deporting an American citizen back to my constituency," said government minister Rob Nicholson, who represents the electoral district in southern Ontario near Niagara Falls where Fort Erie is located.

Canadian officials are looking into whether they can deport Watson, who has permission to live and work in Canada.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called on Ottawa on Tuesday to have the U.S. decision overturned.

"I hope that we are of one mind in this regard so that we don't become some kind of a dumping ground for convicted offenders," McGuinty told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. It's obviously not the kind of precedent that we want to allow the Americans to establish and it's not the kind of thing we're prepared to accept," he said.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Ottawa said he could not comment on the case.

U.S. authorities say Watson's relationship with the 15-year-old was consensual. The age of consent in Canada is 14, compared with 17 in New York state.

However, the age of consent in Canada rises to 18 if the sex takes place within a relationship of trust or dependency -- such as between a teacher and student.

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