2014 ABCA 221

In 2014 ABCA 221, Mr. M, a security guard, pleaded guilty to 39 criminal charges, including multiple counts of internet luring, extortion, child pornography offences, fraud and unauthorized use of a computer with intent to commit mischief in relation to data. He was sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Mr. M used Facebook and Nexopia to contact children and request nude photographs and sexual performances on webcam. He also communicated with 21 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). 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 ac-counts if they sent him nude photographs. 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. Mr. M also distributed photos of a naked boy on a file sharing site. He also manipulated photos to make it appear as though some of the children were naked in the photos.

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.”1 The only mitigating factors on sentencing were the facts that Mr. M pled guilty to all charges and had cooperated with police.

The courts described some of his actions as “cyberbullying and online sexual exploitation”2 and cited AB v Bragg Communications 2012 SCC 46 to describe the harm that cyberbullying can do to children. The Court noted:

[Mr. M’s] use of the internet, to commit his numerous sexually based criminal of-fences 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.3

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 pre-sent, an order to provide a DNA sample, and an order to comply with the Sexual Offender In-formation Registry Act.

He appealed sentence.

His appeal of this sentence was dismissed, with the court stating:

[…] We know better now than we did then. We have come to understand the full magnitude of the impact such crimes have on children and that some have even re-sorted to suicide to find relief from online tormentors. In fact, one of the victims here reported having thoughts of suicide to escape the appellant. This and the other victim impact statements provided in this case are poignant reminders of the trauma and suffering caused by these crimes.

Society cannot tolerate such offences and we are determined to do what we can to protect children from cyberbullying and exploitation. In cases such as that before us, we must resort to imprisonment, emphasizing the sentencing objectives of protection, punishment and deterrence.4

Also see: 2013 ABPC 116 (Sentencing).

[1] 2013 ABPC 116 at para 34.
[2] 2014 ABCA 221 at para 2.
[3] 2013 ABPC 116 at para 62.
[4] 2014 ABCA 221 at paras 17-18.

Criminal Offence(s): Child Pornography Offences, Extortion, Mischief in Relation to Data, Luring a Child, Invitation to Sexual Touching, Identity FraudSexual Interference