Young man given conditional discharge in high-profile child porn case

In victim impact statement, parents say girl became an “empty ghost” following 2011 incident

Protestors outside of the Provincial courts, fighting the publication ban
Protestors outside of the Provincial courts, fighting the publication ban. The victim’s name in the posters has been blurred. Photo: Allie Darwin

The judge in a high-profile Nova Scotia child pornography case has given a 20-year-old man a 12-month conditional discharge.

The conditions are that the accused seek mental health services, check in with a counsellor and give a DNA sample for the national database of offenders. The charge occurred when the young man was 17 years old, so he was sentenced in youth court.

The judge also requested that the accused send a written apology to the family of the victim.

The young man barely reacted to the verdict, only speaking briefly for clarification.

The father of the victim said he accepted the verdict.

“I feel good about it today, leaving here. It’s been a hell of a journey,” said the father. “It’s too bad that when he had the opportunity to turn to us and apologize he didn’t take it. It would’ve meant a lot to us.”

The emotional verdict came three hours into the sentencing hearing.

“There is no measure that could ever, ever properly reflect her value. But this is not a court of retribution,” said the judge, Justice Gregory Lenehan.

“This single image could not have been been more severe,” said the judge. He spoke of the importance of character, and what we choose to do when no one is watching. He asked how the young man would have reacted if it had been his sister in the place of the victim.

Case in Review 

The young man pleaded guilty in September to making child pornography after taking a sexually explicit photo of a girl who later committed suicide. The young man had taken a photo of a boy having sex with a girl who was vomiting out a bedroom window. The accused then sent the image to the other boy, the prosecutor said, but it was distributed to many more after that.

The case is subject to a publication ban which prohibits the naming of the young man under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The girl’s name cannot be published under a Criminal Code provision protecting victims of child pornography.

Victim Impact Statements

Before the verdict, both the mother and father read their victim impact statements.

“I watched my child turn into an empty ghost” said the father, following the November 2011 event.

The father referred to his own mental well-being, saying he’s not able to work, fears being alone and suffers from depression and anxiety. He said knowing the type of person his daughter was, he believes she would have forgiven the accused had he apologized.

In the mother’s statement, she recalled her daughter being on the ground that night, rocking and crying, saying her life was ruined. She said she lost her daughter that night, claiming she was never the same after the photo had been spread to others.

“If (the victim) was a troubled teen, then every teen I ever met is a troubled teen,” said the mother. The victim had had no mental health issues and was a straight-A student. After the photo, she said,  it was a downward spiral and the victim began acting rebelliously.

The defence argued the accused had learned from his mistakes and feels remorse for his actions, saying he had to drop out of school. As well, the national media attention of the case had a great effect on his well-being.

Protestors wore Guy Fawkes masks in support of the victim. Photo: Deborah Oomen

“No one wants to fight. There are no winners in this case. We are all losers,” said defence lawyer Ian Hutchison.

People inside the courtroom gathered wearing shirts saying “Breaking the silence” in support of the victim. Others outside protested the publication ban in Guy Fawkes masks.

“I think these people [the protesters] here are expressing our frustration on the publication ban,” said the father of the victim.

“We can say our words in the courtroom, but outside the courtroom she’s silenced.”

 

Tags: