Kitchener -- A respected Jehovah's Witness elder was put on probation for two years yesterday for molesting a young girl while they were going door-to-door to spread their faith.
"It's like a priest fondling a child during a religious service," said Crown prosecutor Mark Poland.
Claude Martin, 77, was convicted of sexual assault for touching the 10-year-old girl's buttocks and vagina through her clothes in 2000 or 2001.
He was acquitted after a five-day trial in Ontario Court of a second count involving a girl who was about the same age during an alleged incident in the late 1980s.
Although it was not admitted as evidence, the court also heard about a 2003 statement in which Martin told police he had a problem with sexual fantasies involving young girls.
He gave the statement while police were investigating an allegation that Martin exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl delivering newspapers. He was not charged in that incident.
Defence lawyer James Marentette argued Martin paid a heavy price for the brief fondling incident after being stripped of his leadership responsibilities with the church.
"He is a sad and somewhat broken man as a result of the loss of those important elements of his life," he said.
Poland, however, stressed the breach of trust involved in the crime because the girl and her family looked up to Martin.
Outside court, he also criticized leaders of the congregation for being "completely unco-operative" with police during their investigation.
The girl's family has said they felt elders tried to sweep the matter under the carpet after they turned to them first before going to the police.