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Putman Protects Child Abuser

September 12, 2012 permalink

Dufferin CAS board member Robert Horsburgh used his foster daughter for his sexual gratification over a three year period starting in 1975. When the indiscretion was brought to the attention of Dufferin CAS, executive director Gary Putman put Horsburgh on the child protection registry, but failed to notify police. Horsburgh remained protected from police action for thirty years until the victim, identified only as MA, went to the police herself.



Guilty plea in sex with foster child case

Children's Aid Soceity didn't report abuse to police

Robert Horsburgh
Former CAS board member. Robert Horsburgh is seen here leaving the courthouse on Monday (Sept. 10).
Todd McEwen

A former board member of Dufferin Children’s Aid Society (CAS) pled guilty to illicit sex with his foster daughter.

Robert Horsburgh, 75, filed the guilty plea on June 11, more than 35 years after various incidents of illicit sex with his foster daughter occurred.

A court ordered publication ban, which protected details of the case, was lifted on Monday (Sept 10). The victim’s identity, aside from her initials MA, is still protected by the court.

“When Robert Horsburgh is sentenced, my jail sentence will finally end,” MA said while reading her victim impact statement in court.

Dufferin CAS placed MA in Horsburgh’s Orangeville home, with his wife, daughter and two sons, in November 1975. At the time, the victim was 15-years old.

“This was supposed to be a safe haven,” Crown Attorney Marie Balogh said.

The first sexual contact between Horsburgh and his foster daughter — an opened-mouth kiss — happened at a Christmas party in 1975. Horsburgh acknowledged the kiss was wrong and promised it would never happen again.

“I remember singing Silent Night. That song is a trigger for me now,” MA said. “I have never been able to enjoy a Christmas Eve service ever since.”

On New Year’s Eve of the same year, Horsburgh broke his promise. In the living room of their Orangeville home, Horsburgh fondled his foster daughter’s breasts.

“Before this happened, I was the happiest I had ever been and life was as good as it had been,” said MA, who considered the Horsburgh’s her family. “After this happened, my life completely fell apart and I had a complete breakdown.”

The sexual encounters continued to escalate. By June 1976, Horsburgh was having “full intercourse” with his victim.

“He always told her she had no need to worry about pregnancy as he had a vasectomy,” Crown attorney Marie Balogh said while reading from an agreed statement of facts.

Horsburgh continued to have sex with the victim, usually once or twice per week while his wife was at swimming lessons, until MA left for college in September 1977.

“There was one occasion (MA) went to bed early trying to avoid being alone with the defendant,” Balogh said. “He had full intercourse in her bedroom while his daughter slept in the bed next to (MA).”

When MA left for college, Horsburgh was no longer her legal foster parent. However, he continued to visit her at school.

“Robert Horsburgh would visit her at college and take her to a hotel room about once a month for sex,” Balogh said. “He would often give her extra spending money while visiting.”

After a breakdown the following year, MA told her doctor of the sexual abuse.

“She could no longer cope with it any longer,” Balogh said.

MA continued to battle depression and anorexia, eventually explaining the abuse to then-Dufferin CAS executive director Gary Putman in May 1981.

“After the disclosure, she ended up in the psychiatric ward of a Toronto Hospital,” Balogh said.

MA has suffered from continuous psychiatric problems since.

“I still don’t sleep in a bed. I sleep on the couch because I feel safer,” MA said. “I sleep with the television on because the sound keeps me safe. The quiet brings flashbacks.”

According to the statement of facts, Putman interviewed Horsburgh about the victim’s allegations. Horsburgh, who also volunteered as a Cub Scout leader, hockey coach and Army Cadets leader, confessed to his sexual relationship with his foster daughter.

“As of May 7 (1981) this couple is no longer fostering with our agency and the foster father’s resignation from the board of directors was accepted,” Putman wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Community and Social Service. “In order to protect this family from fostering in the future, we have as of June 24 registered the foster father with the Child Abuse Registry.”

However, Dufferin CAS did not report the abuse to police.

“CAS did not suggest (MA) go to police. We have no answer as to why,” defence attorney Lynda Lamb said.

In April 2004, MA contacted Dufferin Child And Family Services, requesting disclosure of her file and received a letter outlining the history with the CAS, as well as the sexual conduct. Six year later, she contacted the Orangeville Police Service to report the incidents. Horsburgh was arrested and charged with illicit sexual intercourse with a foster daughter – an offence that was repealed in 1988.

Horsburgh will return to court on Monday (Sept. 17) for sentencing.

“I lost my life, my family my job, my home,” MA said. “He still has his job, his family and his home.”

Source: Orangeville Banner

Addendum: In a letter to the editor Gary Putman gives excuses, but does not take responsibility.



Former CAS director explains unreported abuse case (letter)

Dear editor,

A recent article by Bill Tremblay regarding charges to Mr. R. Horsburgh was brought to my attention. In the article, the question is raised as to why the CAS (Children’s Aid Society) did not report this abuse to the police in May 1981.

First let me say how much I regret the abuse that MA suffered during this period in her life. MA was an adult (many years over the age of majority) when she met with me to disclose the situation she had faced with Mr. Horsburgh.

The mandate of Children's Aid only allows agencies to get involved in instances of abuse up to the age of 16. My recollection of the report, and in reviewing past records, her disclosure contained information that described instances of abuse over the age of 16.

The reason for disclosure at that time was to work with the agency to ensure that other girls were not placed in the foster home.

In the early 1980s child welfare agencies and police did not work in a close co-ordinated relationship as it is now. In fact, Dufferin CAS was one of the first agencies in the province to develop working protocols with the the local police services-in Dufferin in the mid 1980s before it became common practice across Ontario.

It was the normal practice in Ontario at that time to leave the choice of reporting to police by the victim over 16 if they chose to proceed with charges, and at that time the victim in this case was not ready to make this report.

Practice standards evolve over the years, but at that time the agency took all actions it could to prevent possible abuse to other young girls by immediately closing this foster home and reporting the disclosure to the appropriate child welfare mechanisms in place provincially.

Source: Orangeville Banner

Addendum: Sentenced to one year.



Jail time for illicit sex with foster daughter

Former Dufferin Children's Aid Society board member pleaded guilty

Robert Horsburgh
Heading to jail. Robert Horsburgh, in back, is seen here leaving the courthouse on Monday (Sept. 10). His sentence was handed down today (Sept. 17).
Todd McEwen

Robert Horsburgh will serve one year in jail for an illicit sexual relationship with his former foster daughter.

Horsburgh, once a board member of Dufferin Children’s Aid Society (CAS), was sentenced to 12 months in prison, followed by 12 to 15 months probation, on Monday (Sept. 17).

He also faces a DNA order, a 10-year firearm ban, and will be added to the sex offender registry

Horsburgh told the judge he regrets his actions, during the case’s closing arguments a week before sentencing.

“My actions have brought shame to my family,” Horsburgh said. “I deeply regret the pain and suffering I’ve caused.”

Horsburgh, 75, pled guilty on June 11 to having illicit sex with a foster daughter, more than 35 years after various incidents occurred.

Dufferin CAS placed the victim, who can only be identified as MA, in Horsburgh’s Orangeville home, with his wife, daughter and two sons, in November of 1975. At the time, MA was 15 years old.

The first sexual contact between Horsburgh and his foster daughter occurred months after MA moved into her new home.

The contact between Horsburgh and his foster daughter developed into “full intercourse.”

Horsburgh told the court he hopes his guilty plea would bring closure after more than three decades.

In 2010, Horsburgh was arrested and charged with illicit sexual intercourse with a foster daughter — an offence that was repealed in 1988.

“There is an overwhelming sense of relief this will bring closure to MA and my family,” Horsburgh said.

Defence attorney Lynda Lamb said Horsburgh’s guilty plea demonstrates he regrets this illicit relationship.

“I cannot think of a stronger sign of remorse than this plea of guilty,” she said.

Lamb asked the judge to consider a one-year conditional sentence, 15 months of probation, a DNA order and a 10-year weapons ban, as well as Horsburgh’s inclusion on the sex offender registry.

“Mr. Horsburgh is not a clear and present danger to anyone in the community,” Lamb said. “He has fully accepted all responsibility for his actions.”

However, Justice Meredith Donohue noted a conditional sentence is unusual for a conviction involving sex crimes. Donohue added Horsburgh’s health is not an issue when considering sentencing, as he is still able to work full-time.

Although Horsburgh has no criminal record, Donohue said the sentence serves as a deterrent to society.

Media coverage and the community discovering his actions also serve as punishment, Lamb said.

“He will lose the respect of his community,” Lamb said. “He will carry this for the rest of his life.”

Lamb added Horsburgh did not know his sexual relationship violated criminal law. “It was viewed as morally wrong,” she said.

Crown Attorney Marie Balogh said ignorance of the law is no excuse. She asked the judge to consider 12 months in jail, as well as probation, a DNA order and a decade long weapons ban and sex offender registry.

“We have a young person as a victim,” Balogh said. “A child in need of protection already.”

The crown added there is no reason Horsburgh cannot serve a prison sentence.

“There are no dire health issues,” Balogh said.

Source: Orangeville Banner