Victim tells pimp’s sentencing hearing her time with him was ‘experience from hell’
A young woman who was lured into prostitution at the age of 17 by a Vancouver pimp has described it as an “experience from hell.”
In a victim impact statement read into court Wednesday, the young woman, who is now 20, said that she suffers from severe anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and panic attacks as a result of being exploited by Michael William Bannon.
The victim, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, met Bannon, now 35, in March 2015 after he contacted her unsolicited on Facebook.
He picked her up near her home in Surrey and took her to a hotel in Vancouver. Over the course of a weekend, she had between 25 and 28 sexual encounters, with at least three males not wearing condoms, one of them the accused.
At one point, Bannon provided her with drugs after she had serviced a client. After taking the drugs, she lapsed into unconsciousness for several hours.
On her way home in a taxi, she was intercepted by police. She was wearing a thin dress and appeared tired and dishevelled.
“My emotions were so raw after this event and the flashbacks were so intense, my family didn’t know how to respond to them,” S.L. said in a victim impact statement read in court by Crown counsel Geordie Proulx during Bannon’s sentencing hearing. “Physically, this was an experience from hell. I was so dehydrated in the hospital, the IV had to go between my toes. I had cold sores all over my mouth and face. I was sore all over.”
The girl’s mother also provided a victim impact statement read by Proulx at the hearing presided over by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden.
The mother said that when her daughter went missing on the weekend in question, she didn’t know that her child was in the presence of “such a dangerous man.”
When her daughter came home, she felt relief and then dread, as well as anger and helplessness.
“There was nothing I could do to make this better. I couldn’t heal her or protect her from this monster.”
Last week, Bannon pleaded guilty to 22 charges related to his recruiting of nine victims between the ages of 14 and 18 over the course of several months in 2014 and 2015. Most of the victims were vulnerable underage girls.
Proulx said that Bannon’s crimes were “extremely lucrative” for him, difficult for police to investigate, and a challenge to prosecute and encouraged a strong message of denunciation and deterrence.
“It must be made very clear by the court that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated.”
The Crown and defence suggested a 14-year sentence for Bannon.
Doug Jevning, a lawyer for Bannon, told the judge that at the time of the offences his client was “deep in the throes” of a heroin addiction but has since overcome his addiction. He said Bannon sincerely wants to change his life and accepts responsibility for the crimes.
“He truly regrets putting the girls on a bad path that hopefully they will be able to get off.”
Louisa Russell, a member of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, was in court for the sentencing hearing and said while it was a relief that Bannon was being held accountable, it was her understanding that so far none of the men who bought sex with the girls had been charged.
“It is unacceptable that the Vancouver Police Department will not enforce the law when it comes to criminalizing men who buy women and girls for sexual use and abuse.”
The department had no comment on Wednesday, but last week stated that it investigates all criminal complaints, including where it is alleged that a suspect has obtained sexual services for consideration from those under the age of 18 years.