Only a month after he was denied day parole on the grounds that he was at risk of committing more sexual offences, Reginald Joseph O’Keefe has been released from prison.
“Reggie” O’Keefe, 74, was granted statutory release from a federal prison on Wednesday, having served two-thirds of his sentence for molesting four young girls. He has reportedly returned to the province.
O’Keefe was convicted in September 2016 of six counts of indecent assault and sentenced in December 2016 to 10 months for each charge, ordered to be served consecutively for a total of just under five years.
This past February, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to two years, two months and three days, less time served.
In her appeal decision, Justice Lois Hoegg said the original judge had ignored the “totality principle,” which requires a sentence reflect the gravity of the crime and the offender’s responsibility, but should not be “unduly long or harsh” in cases where there are consecutive sentences imposed.
By law, federal offenders are required to be granted statutory release from prison under supervision after serving two-thirds of their sentence. It doesn’t mean O’Keefe’s sentence is over, but that he will serve the remaining nine months in the community.
Parole board documents indicate O’Keefe had applied for day parole on April 18, but was denied after a review panel deemed him at an “above average” risk to commit more sexual offences. The board noted O’Keefe had initially denied committing the offences, but later admitted to being attracted to young girls at an early age and assaulting them while drinking.
O’Keefe’s criminal record includes a number of sexual offences dating back to 1994, as well as the sexual assault of a three-year-old girl in 2010. He was sentenced in 2012 to a year in jail for that assault.
“In regards to the sexual offence involving the (three-year-old), you believe you were enticed by the young girl and she urged you into engaging in sexual activity,” the board noted. “The board takes a dim view of you blaming your victim for your actions.”
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The parole board also expressed concerns with the “minimal gains” O’Keefe has achieved in terms of programming while in prison and his lack of insight into his sexual crimes.
“This is evidenced by your answers at today’s hearing, where you have minimized some of your behaviour and actions in regards to your sexual offending,” the document reads.
The board acknowledged O’Keefe’s report of having been sexually abused as a child, and noted O’Keefe believed a breakup of a relationship early in life had contributed to his crimes.
O’Keefe also told the board he had been treated badly by a close family member when he was younger, and it left him feeling alienated and alone, which he thought was also a factor.
In implementing conditions for his statutory release, the board said O’Keefe’s sexual offences were both impulsive and planned, as well as deliberate. The sexual assault of the toddler shows an escalation in severity of his crimes, the board said.
“You abused your position of trust and authority to access young female children, sometimes while under the influence of alcohol, but not always,” the board wrote, imposing a condition that O’Keefe must reside at a community correctional centre or community residential facility until he finishes his sentence next February. Without this condition, the panel wrote, O’Keefe is at risk of reoffending before his sentence is up.
O’Keefe had told the board he was OK with this condition, but would prefer to go home.
The board ordered O’Keefe to not be in the presence of anyone under age 16 and to stay away from places where children under 16 are likely to attend without being accompanied by a pre-approved adult who is aware of his criminal history; to have no contact with the victims or their families; to not consume, purchase or possess alcohol; to follow a treatment plan as arranged by a parole supervisor; and to not be present during the operational hours of any business operated out of his family home.
If O’Keefe breaches any of his conditions, he is likely to return to prison for the remainder of his sentence.
O’Keefe assaulted the four girls, now women, in Labrador and on the island over three decades, when they were between the ages of six and 10.
All four flew to St. John’s from around the continent to address the court during O’Keefe’s sentencing hearing, and described how they have suffered as a result of what he did to them.