Al Kirkwood, the former publisher of the Clearwater Times and the Barriere Star/Journal, and the former Barriere fire chief, has been charged with two offences – making available child pornography and possession of child pornography.
However, there is currently no evidence suggesting that any local children were directly victimized, according to a media release from the BC Integrated Child Exploitation (BC ICE) unit
According to the media release, Kirkwood, age 62, was arrested on Oct. 8 and was formally charged with the two offences on Nov. 04.
The investigation began in August after BC ICE received several concerning reports from the United States National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Canadian National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC).
On Oct. 4, BC ICE, along with the assistance of numerous other RCMP units and jurisdictions (Barriere RCMP, Clearwater RCMP, Kamloops RCMP, North Okanagan RCMP General Investigations Section, Southeast District RCMP General Investigations Section and the Integrated Sexual Predator Observation Team), executed search warrants at four locations in the Barriere and Clearwater areas.
The four locations were the Times office in Clearwater, the Star/Journal office in Barriere, Kirkwood’s home in Barriere and the Barriere fire hall.
Following the execution of the search warrants, Kirkwood was arrested and released on a promise to appear with conditions limiting his access to children and to the Internet.
Kirkwood made his first appearance in Kamloops Law Courts on Nov. 7. His next appearance is set for Dec. 8.
“This investigation illustrates how effectively different units and jurisdictions within the RCMP work together and with other national and international partners to combat the ever growing issue of online child exploitation” says Inspector Tyler Svendson, officer in charge of the RCMP Behavioral Sciences Group. “Keeping children safe is the primary goal of the BC ICE unit and dedicated ICE investigators routinely travel throughout the province to ensure that suspected offenders are identified and brought to justice.”
The BC RCMP asks that if you are aware of any incidents of online child exploitation, that you report it to your local police or through www.Cybertip.ca.
Kirkwood was chief of the Barriere fire department for 23 years and publisher of the two North Thompson newspapers for nearly 17. He has since stepped down from all three positions.
Both the Clearwater Times and the Barriere Star/Journal are part of the Black Press newspaper chain.
"Staff and management are deeply shocked and disturbed at the news of the criminal charges involving Kirkwood, and share with the community a profound sense of dismay," said Black Press B.C. chief operating officer Randy Blair.
Black Press has co-operated fully with the RCMP in their investigation to date, and will continue to do so. Black Press Community News Media is reporting on the matter as facts become available.