Canadian sect leader had 146 children to 24 wives

  • 25/07/2017
Winston Blackmore arrives at the Supreme Court.
Winston Blackmore arrives at the Supreme Court. Photo credit: Reuters

A former leader of a breakaway religious sect who had 24 "wives" and at least 146 children has been found guilty of polygamy by a Canadian court.

Winston Blackmore and another former bishop of the breakaway Mormon community of Bountiful, in British Columbia, were found guilty by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge of one count of polygamy each.

Blackmore, 61, was accused of practising "a form of polygamy" or "a kind of conjugal union" with 24 women between 1990 and 2014, according to court documents. Media have reported that he fathered at least 146 children.

James Oler, 53, faced the same charge involving five women between 1993 and 2009. It is not known how many children Oler has fathered.

Under Canada's century-old anti-polygamy law, the British Columbia government had been weighing prosecution since the early 1990s against members of the isolated community of 1,500 residents .

Despite multiple police investigations into claims of abuse in the community, it had declined to pursue polygamy charges because of concerns that doing so would violate constitutional freedoms of religion, which Blackmore's defense counsel had argued.

In 2011, the British Columbia Supreme Court affirmed that laws banning polygamy were constitutional and did not violate religious freedoms.