After guilty pleas to 92 counts of break and enter and the imposition of a conditional sentence to be served in the community, the Manitoba Court of Appeal allowed the Crown's appeal and imposed a sentence of four years on the 40-year-old panty thief.
James Duerksen had been committing fetish break-ins for over 20 years in both Manitoba and Alberta. Last year, women and girls in the town of Rosenort, about 50 kms from Winnipeg, noticed that panties and bras were being stolen from their homes. The underwear always disappeared while they were attending the same church.
Suspicion fell on Duerksen and some of the town's residents entered his garage and searched it. They found garbage bags filled with women's underwear.
Duerksen eventually admitted to the crimes and told police he had been doing that for more than 20 years. On occasion, he masturbated on the underwear while in the homes of his victims.
In October 2011, Duerksen pleaded guilty to over 90 charges. Provincial Court Judge Marvin Garfinkel rejected the prosecutor's request for a 10 year sentence and imposed a conditional sentence of two years less a day. Conditional sentences allow the offender to serve the sentence in the community; a form of house arrest.
The married father of two had been diagnosed as suffering from "transvestic fetishism." In justifying the refusal to impose a custodial sentence, Garfinkel was quoted by Canoe News as saying, The courts have to say, what's better for society? To lock him up and have him come out untreated or to give him a conditional sentence and treatment as recommended by defense counsel?
The Crown appealed and yesterday the Manitoba Court of Appeal rendered its judgment. The three justices on the panel found the sentence imposed by the trial judge to be "wholly unfit." Although the appellate court rejected the Crown's request for a 10 year sentence, finding that sentence would be "crushing," they allowed the appeal and sentenced Duerksen to four years.
Recognizing the seriousness of the numerous offences committed over a long period of time, the appellate court wrote, as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, The accused would identify a home inhabited by a woman, wait until the residents were at church and then enter the home and steal the women's lingerie. Moreover, the psychological report done on the accused postulated that his acts arose from a desire for power over the women whose undergarments he stole.
As reported by the Winnipeg Sun, the court refused to order Duerksen undergo sex offender counselling while incarcerated. The justices followed a recommendation in a psychological report that said the 40-year-old first offender would be exposed to "more serious forms of inappropriate sexual behaviours which could result in more harm than benefits."
Duerksen was given credit for the time he spent under the conditional sentence.