In Canada, if offenders decide not to tell anyone theyre traveling, and are caught, the penalties are soft: a maximum of two years or a $10,000 fine. In the U.K., the penalty could be as much as five years behind bars. In the United States, the federal penalty for not complying with sex offender registry rules is as many as 10 years imprisonment.
In Canada, even if sex offenders do comply and notify authorities they are traveling, they dont need to tell anyone where theyre going or provide an itinerary. The United States, U.K. and Australia all require detailed travel plans in advance.
And unlike other jurisdictions, Canada doesnt monitor who is leaving the country, and so cant catch sex offenders on the way out. On the way back into Canada, a child-sex tourist is unlikely to be caught because border agents arent on the lookout for them and dont have the tools to catch them, such as front-line access to police data of criminal histories or the names listed in provincial or national sex offender registries.
These people are passing right underneath our noses, said Jean-Pierre Fortin, head of the Customs and Immigration Union, which has been pushing for access to criminal databases for Canada Border Services Agency inspectors.
The job of keeping track of child-sex tourists is becoming even more challenging as new destinations such as Cuba emerge, eclipsing hotspots in southeast Asia. An internal Royal Canadian Mounted Police report, released to The Star under Access to Information legislation, cited Cuba as the most popular destination in the Americas for child-sex tourism and the Americas most visited region for Canadians traveling abroad for sex with kids.
McTurk, Toronto police allege, was one of those tourists.
No evidence against McTurk has been heard in court, and the charges against him are unproven. The case against him and his criminal convictions are detailed in a sworn search warrant, obtained by The Star, along with interviews of investigators.
The investigation that led to child-sex tourism charges against the diminutive retired postal worker which could result in a 14-year sentence if he is convicted began last spring.
The manager of a grocery store called Toronto police after an upset photo clerk spotted images, in for printing, showing sad, half-naked children.
The subsequent search warrant includes the clerks perception of the images: The children were not smiling and she believed that they looked frightened.
When police looked at the name of the man who placed the photo order, James McTurk, an alert cop recognized it. Police are obliged to check on the addresses of sex offenders once a year.
The case made its way to the forces Child Exploitation Unit, which investigates sexual crimes against kids. It landed on Detective Paul Robbs desk.
Robb and his boss, Detective Sgt. Kim Gross, concluded child pornography charges were justified, and three of those were quickly filed. But this time, Gross wanted her team to pursue child-sex tourism charges against McTurk.
As far as Im concerned we have a duty to protect children in countries other than Canada, Gross said.
Robb swore out a search warrant, alleging that once inside McTurks apartment he would find evidence of sexual crimes against children committed in Cuba.