David Norton file photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.David Norton file photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.

Pedophile Priest Gets Four Year Sentence

A former Anglican priest has been sentenced to four years in prison for the sexual abuse of a young boy.

David Norton, 72, showed no reaction from the prisoner's box as Superior Court Justice Lynne Leitch delivered the sentence at the London courthouse Friday. Norton pleaded guilty in February to a charge of sexual interference involving the son of one of his parishioners. The abuse began in 1991 when the boy was just 9 years old. It continued until 1995.

In handing down her sentencing decision, Leitch said those who prey on children for their own sexual gratification "must pay a heavy price." She classified Norton's actions as "sexually deviant behaviour."

"Mr. Norton took advantage of a young child to satisfy his own sexual desires," said Leitch. "There is no question the victim was cheated of his childhood."

Seeking a positive male role model for her son, the victim's mother went to Norton -- the then 45-year-old priest at St. Mark’s Anglican Church -- in the summer of 1991. A bond was quickly formed and Norton began inviting the boy to his house for sleepovers on Fridays and Saturdays and taking him on camping trips across the province. During this time, they would go skinny dipping and sleep in the same bed, “spooning” because Norton had told the boy that would keep them warm.

Norton began fondling the boy and that soon escalated to further sexual activities, which included masturbation. The boy learned how to drive and French kiss from Norton, but when doing either activity the priest would perform sexual acts.

The sexual abuse continued until 1995 when the boy was 13 years old. He told his mother he no longer wanted to see Norton after schoolmates began teasing him about the relationship.

In a victim impact statement read in court earlier this week, the victim, now in his 30s, spoke about how Norton's abuse has negatively affected his relationships with women, friends, and family. He turned to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping.

Leitch noted that while Norton has expressed remorse for his actions, he "lacks insight" into his behaviour and did not apologize to the victim.

In a pre-sentence report, Norton said he and the victim were fascinated with nudity and touching, but as the adult, he should have stopped it. Leitch was quick to point out that claim was victim blaming and that Norton was trying to rationalize and "minimalize his role in the offence."

Norton, who was also a foster parent from 1987 to 2006, has maintained he is not sexually attracted to children and that the relationship with the victim was the result of the breakdown of his brief marriage.

He had no previous criminal record and retired from the Anglican Diocese of Huron in 2011. He also was an award-winning professor at King’s University ­College at Western University, specializing in First Nations history.

Norton's lawyer Gord Cudmore had been asking for a conditional sentence of two years less a day, plus three years probation. Assistant Crown attorney Chris Heron was seeking a four-and-a-half year prison term.

Leitch stated a conditional sentence was not appropriate as the abuse was "prolonged and persistent and committed by a person in a position of trust."

The victim, who was not in the courtroom, did not come forward with the sexual abuse he suffered until 2015, when he learned Norton was charged with sexual offences involving other children. Those charges date back to the 1970s when Norton was a priest at an Anglican church on the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation. That trial is scheduled to begin in October.

During Friday's sentencing hearing, a person in the courtroom wearing a blue t-shirt bearing the name of the Indigenous community angrily shouted at Norton.

“Hey priest, why don’t you tell the truth about all the boys you molested? Maybe your god will speak to you and tell you to tell the truth about all the things you’ve done,” the person said before being escorted out of the courtroom by police.

Norton did not react to the person's outburst.

Read More Local Stories