SELECTED CASE LAW
In 2013 ABPC 116, Mr. M, a security guard in his twenties, pleaded guilty to 39 criminal charges against 21 child victims over a five-year period. Charges included multiple counts of internet luring, extortion, child pornography offences, invitation to sexual touching, identity fraud, unauthorized use of computer with intent to commit mischief in relation to data, and failure to comply with recognizance which prohibited his contact with a person under the age of 18 with-out supervision and prohibited Mr. M’s use of the internet.
Over a five-year period, Mr. M used Facebook, Nexopia, and other messaging programs to con-tact children and request photographs of them in their underwear or in the nude, and/or for them to expose themselves or engage in sexual behaviour on webcam. He also communicated with children—the majority of whom were boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 16—using MSN Messenger and through text messages. If his victims refused to send him nude photographs, Mr. M would use information he had learned about the children in past conversations to hack into their email and social media accounts (for example, by asking questions related to common password reset security questions such as pet names and birthdays) and threaten them. On more than one occasion, Mr. M impersonated his child victims in order to solicit nude photographs from their friends. In other instances, after hijacking his victims’ online accounts, he told children they could only regain access to their accounts if they sent him nude photo-graphs. When one child sent Mr. M photos of her in her underwear, he threatened to distribute the photos unless she sent him a fully nude photograph. He also sent explicit photos to some victims. Mr. M also distributed photos of his victims on the internet. If he had copies of photo-graphs of the children in their underwear or in the nude, he would occasionally post those pictures on the child’s social media or upload them as the child’s profile picture in order to extort more pictures. In some conversations, he requested the children to touch themselves sexually and have sexually explicit conversations with him. Mr. M also altered photos to appear as though the child was naked. Several parents reported his behaviour to the police and to the social media companies, some of whom alerted the police of the problematic behaviour.
At sentencing, the Court noted that Mr. M’s actions were deliberate, persistent, and aggressive. The offences were also sexually motivated, and the Court found that they were “calculated to intimidate, manipulate and psychologically and socially harm the vulnerable child and youthful victims.” The only mitigating factors on sentencing were the facts that Mr. M pleaded guilty to all charges and had cooperated with police.
The Court considered some of Mr. M’s conduct “cyberbullying,” and cited AB v Bragg Communications 2012 SCC 46 to describe the harm that cyberbullying can do to children. The Court noted that “[Mr. M’s] use of the internet, to commit his numerous sexually based criminal offences involving children and young adults, have elements of disturbing online sexual harassment – an adult criminally cyberbullying and cyberstalking, calculated to randomly choose youthful victims to emotionally harass, threaten, intimidate and manipulate in furtherance of his criminal objectives.” Mr. M was sentenced to 11-years imprisonment, along with several ancillary orders including prohibitions on possession of firearms and attending places where persons under 16 are present, prohibiting being in a position of authority with persons under the age of 16, an order to provide a DNA sample, and an order to comply with the Sexual Offender Information Registry Act.
An appeal of the case was dismissed.
See also: 2014 ABCA 221 (Appeal).
Criminal Offence(s): Identity Fraud