Justice

19-year-old gets conditional sentence in child pornography case

Judge gives two-year sentence for “purposefully dehumanizing and heartless” posts on Facebook

Mark Heerema, Crown prosecutor, discusses the Youth Justice Court decision
Mark Heerema, Crown prosecutor, discusses the Youth Justice Court decision   Maia Kowalski

A 19-year-old man was sentenced today to two years conditional discharge for extortion, possession of child pornography and intention to distribute.

The young man was 16 when he extorted selfies from a 16-year-old girl using a fake Facebook account. He subsequently posted the images on her Facebook page, as well as on two of her friends’ pages. In the images, the young woman was posing topless.

The conditional discharge sentence, delivered in Halifax Youth Justice Court,  means that the young man will not be taken into custody and is subject to specific conditions for two years from today.

Judge Anne Derrick said she was hopeful the conditions would help both him and the victim emerge from the situation and move on from the damage that was done.

She described the crimes as being “purposefully dehumanizing and heartless.”

However, she believes he feels remorse for his actions. The youth was quoted saying that he now feels empathy for the victim and is disgusted by his actions. He said he was open to any punishments and rehabilitation the court determined appropriate.

Judge Derrick said the youth suffers from crippling social anxiety and depression, which isolates him from social situations.

He had befriended an Internet user in his isolation, who encouraged him to publish the selfies.  The young man was quoted saying “it felt like he was in a dream” when extorting and publishing the images, and now “his actions keep him up at night.”

Some of the conditions Judge Derrick imposed were:

  • reporting to a youth worker within two days of today’s verdict
  • 100 hours of community service
  • a ban on possessing a computer or device that can access the Internet, unless under supervision
  • a ban on contacting the victim
  • A ban on using social media was also imposed. The judge was worried this ban would be even more socially isolating for the young man, but ultimately decided that it would be necessary for his punishment.

The Crown prosecutor, Mark Heerema, said he was satisfied with the judge’s sentence and that it would “hold the young person accountable but also promote his rehabilitation.”

Heerema stressed the trauma the victim experienced and her potential to be victimized again.  He said that although the photos found during the court proceedings will be destroyed, he cannot ensure that there are not copies of the photos still on the Internet or in someone’s possession.

Watch Crown prosecutor Mark Heerema talk about the use of social media in this case