In­ti­mate pho­tos treated ‘like base­ball cards’

Case ad­journed un­til Septem­ber

Cape Breton Post - - News Cape Breton/province -

Six young Nova Sco­tia men treated the sex­ual in­tegrity of girls as young as 13 like “bar­ter­ing chips or base­ball cards’’ when they shared in­ti­mate images of them with­out their con­sent, the Crown ar­gued in its sen­tenc­ing rec­om­men­da­tions.

The boys, who are all from the Bridge­wa­ter area, have ad­mit­ted to form­ing a pri­vate Face­book group where they de­cided to ex­change pho­tos of at least 20 girls, rang­ing in age from 13 to 17, with­out their con­sent.

They were sched­uled to be sen­tenced Mon­day, but the case was ad­journed un­til Sept. 6, due in part to the fact that one of the ac­cused did not com­ply with the re­quire­ments of a pre-sen­tence re­port.

De­fence lawyers had also asked for more time af­ter the Crown sub­mit­ted a brief out­lin­ing pro­posed penal­ties.

The 21-page doc­u­ment, sub­mit­ted in Bridge­wa­ter pro­vin­cial court, says the young men should be pro­hib­ited from us­ing so­cial me­dia sites like Twit­ter, Face­book and Snapchat.

“They treated the vic­tims’ sex­ual in­tegrity as bar­ter­ing chips or base­ball cards that could then be traded and cir­cu­lated amongst friends,’’ the Crown brief states.

“This ob­jec­ti­fies the fe­male vic­tims and un­der­mines their au­ton­omy.’’

It rec­om­mends against jail time, but says the six young men should be on pro­ba­tion for two years, with the pos­si­bil­ity of re­duc­ing that.

“We’re ex­pect­ing that the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing is go­ing to be in dis­pute — what the proper penalty is def­i­nitely not agreed upon by the de­fence,’’ Crown at­tor­ney Peter Dostal said out­side court.

“This isn’t a pros­e­cu­tion of just peo­ple sexting. This is a pros­e­cu­tion of peo­ple mis­us­ing th­ese ma­te­ri­als, dis­sem­i­nat­ing them and po­ten­tially putting them out there for the whole world and that is the real evil that the crim­i­nal law has been at­tempt­ing to stop.’’

The Crown brief also said the boys should be barred from con­tact­ing the vic­tims, un­dergo coun­selling, try to find work or at­tend ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram­ming and com­plete com­mu­nity ser­vice.

The de­fence lawyers de­clined to com­ment as they left court.

When the six were charged in July 2016, four of the ac­cused were 15 years old and the other two were 18. How­ever, all were un­der 18 when the of­fences were com­mit­ted, which means their iden­ti­ties are pro­tected from pub­li­ca­tion un­der the Youth Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act. The vic­tims’ iden­ti­ties are also pro­tected.

The case is one of Canada’s largest in­volv­ing a rel­a­tively untested law in­tro­duced in 2015 to com­bat the non-con­sen­sual shar­ing of in­ti­mate images. It came af­ter the sui­cide of Nova Sco­tia teen Re­htaeh Par­sons, whose fam­ily says a photo of her al­legedly be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted was cir­cu­lated among stu­dents at her school in Cole Har­bour.

Court doc­u­ments said two Drop­box ac­counts were cre­ated for the pur­pose of shar­ing dozens of in­ti­mate images of girls in var­i­ous states of un­dress or naked. An agreed state­ment of facts said ev­ery­one who up­loaded pho­tos ei­ther knew out­right or were “wil­fully blind’’ to the fact that the sub­jects didn’t con­sent to their dis­tri­bu­tion.

Some said they felt pres­sured by what they de­scribed as per­sis­tent re­quests for in­ti­mate images, while oth­ers said they were vy­ing for boys’ af­fec­tions or just jok­ing around, the state­ment said.

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