UPDATE: Former Saanich priest convicted of sex offense to be sentenced in September

Justice adjourns hearing so sentencing decision isn't rushed. Crown asking for 4 to 6 months in prison for Phil Jacobs

Father Phil Jacobs

Father Phil Jacobs

The justice presiding over the sentencing hearing of a former Saanich priest found guilty of touching a young person for a sexual purpose has adjourned the trial to September.

Justice J. Miriam Gropper said she didn’t want to rush her decision on handing down her sentence to Phil Jacobs.

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings argued Friday during the sentencing hearing for a four- to six-month prison sentence for Jacobs, following by two years probation. He would also be put on the National Sex Offender Registry, and be included in the National DNA Data Bank.

The guilty charge stems from a witness testimony regarding tutoring sessions at Jacobs’ house on the grounds of St. Joseph the Worker Parish on Burnside Road West. The church is connected to St. Joseph the Worker school, where the young victim went to school.

The witness said he ended up in a position of laying on the couch with his legs over Jacobs’ lap.

During testimony in December, the young man told the court that Jacobs’ right hand would slide up and down the witness’s left thigh over his pants – “he went from my knee to my groin back and forth … the back of his hand touched my genitals.”

Gropper agreed with the Crown’s assertion that Jacobs’ touching of the victim’s genitals was “deliberate,” and not accidental brushing.

According to a psychiatric report conducted after the guilty verdict, handed down in February, Jacobs is deemed at a low to moderate risk to re-offend.

Defence attorney Chris Considine asked Gropper to consider a conditional sentence, given the incident Jacobs was found guilty of wasn’t “more physical, long-lasting or aggressive” compared to other similar crimes.

“This offense has to be at the very lowest of the scale of this type of offense that I can think of,” he said.

While Jennings’ argument focused on the crime as being sexual touching of a young person, Considine repeatedly told Gropper that said it was a breach of trust offense.

After both counsels pleaded their cases, Jacobs, 63, stood up and addressed the court, apologizing to his victim and his family. Jacobs believes he did not commit a sexual offence, but apologized for having put the victim in the compromising situation.

“I regret that I was not responsible to see how problematic that situation was,” he said. “I should have understood the potential consequences (of being in that situation).”

Jacobs worked part-time from 1996 to 1998 at St. Rose of Lima in Sooke before taking the position of parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker in Saanich in 1997.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria hired Jacobs despite knowing he had been relieved of his duties at a church in Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1990s after admitting to inappropriately touching a teenage boy in the 1980s.

Jacobs admitted during testimony in Victoria court that he had sexually abused two boys in Ohio, but had attended therapy to control his compulsion to instruct boys on masturbation. He told the court he had a series of inappropriate experiences with teenage boys involving camping trips and masturbation.

The diocese intentionally initially hired Jacobs to a post where he would not be interacting with children, but over time Jacobs became progressively more engaged with children.

In a press release from 2002 regarding hiring Jacobs, the Victoria diocese had deemed “Jacobs was not a pedophile nor an abuser and he was no threat in the future.”

A release following Jacobs’ guilty verdict from Bishop Richard Gagnon, head the Victoria diocese, reads: “A sexual offence against minors is a crime and like all such harmful actions, goes directly against what the Church believes and teaches. … I remain truly sorry for any harm caused by this situation.”

A date for Gropper’s sentencing verdict was set for Sept. 4.

kslavin@saanichnews.com