Oct 1, 2012 / 7:54 pm
A British Columbia man who served five years in a Thai prison for sexually abusing a child is expected to soon be released back into society now that he has been returned to Canada.
RCMP fear Christopher Neil is at high-risk to reoffend, but the Crown has indicated it wants a publication ban on the hearing that will determine conditions of his freedom.
Police say the 37-year-old has not committed any crimes in Canada, however, they used a section of the Criminal Code aimed at preserving public safety to arrest the man when he arrived Friday at Vancouver's airport.
Neil appeared Monday before a provincial court judge in Richmond, but his case was put off for two days.
"Any time you have a predator who is known to assault children in your environment, I think a community and a society need to know about that," said Brian McConaghy, a former Mountie who heads a victims' rights organization and attended the proceedings.
He has closely followed Neil's case, which gained notoriety in 2007 when police widely released video images unscrambling an Internet photograph of Neil. Neil became the subject of an international manhunt when he was no longer disguised by a digital swirl in pictures of abuse posted online. International media began referring to him as "Swirl Face."
Neil pleaded guilty and was sentenced.
Mark Thompson, a lawyer of 21 years appointed Monday morning to act as Neil's duty counsel, said he will ask for a standard publication ban on the Canadian proceedings "to protect his right to a fair hearing."
"I have spoken to him, he's in good spirits," he said of Neil, who made few facial expressions and wore a loose brown shirt during his brief appearance.
"He was treated well by the Thai and Canadian authorities. He wants to get on with the rest of his life. I can't say right now what his plans are."
Crown spokeswoman Samantha Hulme said all accused are entitled to a publication ban of the evidence presented at a bail hearing.
She said a lawyer will seek "protective conditions" on his release based on Section 810.1 of the Criminal Code, which was initiated by police.
It is "based on concern that he will commit a sexual offence against persons under 16," she said in an email.
If police feel they need to do a public interest notification to the community he'll be residing in, that will be at their discretion, she added.
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